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Thousands on Hand To View Senator Kennedy's Casket on Capital Hill

Aired August 29, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. He's a photographer, a pretty good photographer. You keep seeing him chronicle in photo what's going on. I'm sure those pictures will be good. We saw, Anderson, him on several occasions just reaching out to his camera and taking pictures. That's what he loves to do.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: John King is standing by over at Arlington. John, it's an extraordinary image that we're seeing, some close to 1,000, if not already 1,000 people on the steps, just waiting for one last chance to say good-bye to Senator Kennedy.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, just a step shy of a state funeral, I would say, the pomp and circumstance, the sense of obligation to be there, to watch it. Certainly, it's a moment in history. But as Candy, Dana and Gloria have been noting, no one is taking attendance outside of the United States Capitol. You see Democrats and Republican. You see veteran law makers, those who have not been around all so long.

And it is reminder of the not necessarily unique -- there are a few left -- but the near-unique brand of politics Senator Kennedy practiced. You see Norm Mineta there. He served in the House. Then he was Transportation Secretary in the Bush administration, a Democrat from California, went into a Republican administration. If you pulled him aside, he would have a Ted Kennedy story about when he was ill, getting a note in the hospital.

Dirk Kempthorn, former Republican governor of Idaho, now he's a Republican senator, he would have a Teddy Kennedy story. That is why they're there. There's a sense of obligation and desire to be part of this moment, which -- this is not out of disrespect for anyone else who serves under that majestic Capitol dome. But I don't think there are more than two or three or maybe four left in either chamber who could get an outpouring like this, people who Ted Kennedy has done a favor for. He has maybe given a son or daughter an internship. He has helped them on a big piece of legislation at a moment of crisis.

From the young staffers to the veteran law makers, they feel a need to be there for this. I think it's yet another remarkable moment, as we come to the final chapter of a very, very -- whatever you thought of his politics -- a very remarkable life.

BLITZER: We're seeing pictures. Capitol Hill police just decided, apparently, to let some of the tourists and others who have gathered around the Capitol to come up closer and get a better view of what's going on near the Capitol Hill steps. You see them making their way pretty quickly. This is an exciting moment for all of them. And I'm sure a lot of them are out-of-towners, Anderson, who come in from all over the country, happened to be up on Capitol Hill, heard about this, and want to see history unfold.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, it's a little hard from our images to get a sense of where these people are moving to, in juxtaposition to the people who are -- the staffers on the steps. Can you tell us?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The people that you just saw sort of running are moving from a spot on the lawn part of what I consider to be the back of the Capitol, which would be the east side of the Capitol. They are probably -- oh, boy -- a little more than 100 yards away from the folks that are sitting on the steps. It's a pretty healthy crowd here that, by the way, has been standing -- let's remember, we expected this to happen at 4:30 in the afternoon. And they haven't budged.

So there's a very clear sense that this is something you stay in place for. So -- and they had been encouraged by staffers and by Capitol Hill people and, in fact, by the police saying, you can stay here; you're going to watch something. This will be a moment. And so the tourists were encouraged to stay here.

It's something that the Kennedy family has also wanted to have happen. There's people that you can see, that I can see that are carrying American flags. There are a couple of posters thanking Senator Kennedy. So it is some combination of a memorial watch, a wanting to be in on history, sort of a thank you and just, you know, flat out here we are in Washington, can you imagine this happening?

I think those of us who live here don't recognize how so many people come here and say, oh my gosh, here's the U.S. Capitol. So imagine if you're coming and you're in awe of the U.S. Capitol, seeing it for the first time in your life, or your children seeing for their first time in their life, and then you walk into this little paragraph in history, following all else that Senator Kennedy has done. This is a pretty big moment for people who, by chance, happen to be touring Washington in August.

We should send them weather reports, but, nonetheless, they are here in August, walking into something that is really pretty remarkable.

COOPER: Candy, do we know exactly how this is going to play out? The coffin won't be removed from the hearse. I assume the entourage will stop. Will family members get out?

CROWLEY: Yes. Here's what we're told. This has been rather a liquid program so far. But we are told that about 12 cars will come in here in the motorcade. And behind the hearse will be the immediate family members. And the immediate family members will get out and greet really what's the Kennedy alumni and current staff. There are a number of them over at Arlington for that burial ceremony. You clearly couldn't be at both. So yes, the members of the immediate family, we're told, will get out, say thank you. We are going to hear "America the Beautiful" from the Duke Ellington School Choir. So there's a ceremony. We're told, the whole thing may be, start to finish, about 15 minutes.

They're a little late, but this crowd has been standing for an awfully long time. And there is sun left in the day. So this is something that not anybody here that I've seen has walked away from, and something that will be a bit of a ceremony, because all of these people who pass Senator Kennedy in the halls --

Remember, some of these people in the upper reaches are quite young. I ran into one staffer wanting to know how to get into the news business. He said I dissuaded him. But he's up on Capitol Hill and working on Capitol Hill. And he said -- you know, I saw him in the hall once in the very last days that he was here. And I just wanted to come. I just wanted to see this.

So you have that and then you have the old friends. You have the alumni that have been with him even after they left his employ of 20, 30-some, even 40 years, in the service of Ted Kennedy's causes. So it is very much happening.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I just -- Candy, I would love to know your thoughts on this, because you spent so much time on Capitol Hill and you're there now. But I have never seen anything like this. I don't remember anything like this happening.

We knew, of course, that Senator Kennedy staffers would be on the steps, which is something is that is unique and I don't remember ever happening before. We knew that would be a large group of people because there's so many years in the Senate. But the amount of people and the number of people from the public who are there, the sea of people there is remarkable.

CROWLEY: It really is remarkable. And no, I don't remember any other similar -- certainly there were men of great stature who died during my time up here when I was covering just specifically Capitol Hill. But there is a resonance to the Kennedy name, because it brings with it not just Ted Kennedy, but Bobby Kennedy and Jack Kennedy, and the Special Olympics and, you know, all of those things.

So it is more than a single -- yes, it is a single man. But it's a single man around whom this entire universe has sort of evolved. So that makes him, I think, to these people here, and certainly from some of those we talked to, sort of larger than a senator. You know, people aren't all that awed anymore about here's my U.S. senator, because they're mad about something or another. And certainly Senator Kennedy went through a lot of that.

But this is someone who kind of transcends, at this moment -- at the moment of his death, transcends that kind just one of those guys that works in there and doesn't get anything done. This is a guy who, looking at the body of his work, and looking at the totality of his universe, including his brothers and his family, have contributed a good deal. As John says, regardless of how you felt about policies, this is a family that has contributed an awful lot of sweat and tears, and an awful lot of blood.

So I think he transcends that. And that's why we're seeing this sort of thing. I just don't think there's anyone up here that's a US senator that has kind of national stature, and that come that magic name, and that whole Kennedy era that the older people are now kind of reliving; the younger people are learning about. And so that kind of brings you this kind of critical mass of people who just want to see it happen.

BLITZER: I was told yesterday, Candy, that there would be this pause on the way to Arlington National Cemetery from Andrews Air Force Base, that the motorcade would stop at the steps of the U.S. Senate, and some Kennedy staffers would be there to pay their respects. You know, in my mind, I said, you know, there will probably be a 100 people who will show up. But this pretty amazing, when you think about all these folks who have decided this is an important moment for them and for the country. They want to be there. They want to be eyewitness to what is going on.

I know Gloria has some thoughts on that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's also a testament to not only his 47 years in public service, but his ability to stay relevant as a public servant, whether through his endorsement of Barack Obama, his fight for health care reform, issues like family and medical leave, which affect people of all generations. So this is a politician who was able to move with the times and remain a very relevant, vibrant politician for almost five decades.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think one of the things that's very important is that everything was closed. All the advertisement was that you could couldn't get near it. I mean if you would have opened this thing up and said -- I promise you would have had tens of thousands of people or more.

BLITZER: About 50,000 did walk through when the body was lying in repose at the John F. Kennedy Library, 40,000 to 50,000 people actually walked through those hours. What was really amazing was so many of the Kennedy family members, they were there for hours and hours, including the widow, Vicki, to receive a lot of those people. The public just wanted to walk by and say thanks.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Think about it; the guy, wife and two kids from Sheboygan. You're out on the mall and trucking through the museums. And you go, look at this, Senator Kennedy and history and you take your kid to see this. It's unbelievable. That these people are doing that is a remarkable thing. These parents are giving these children to see this kind of history. These kids will never forget this.

COOPER: It's also a great cross section of America. You look at the faces in the crowd, from all over the United States no doubt.

BLITZER: They just want to be there. I'm interested, Roland, if you think there's a generational fascination with the Kennedys under way right now. I know my generation was fascinated by the Kennedys, because we lived through so much of the tragedy. But the younger generation, people in their 20s and 30s right now, I sense they're not as fascinated as some of us are.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's expected. I mean, it's not like the folks who were 20 and 30 years or who were 18 years old when JFK came on the scene were really thinking about FDR. So that's just the very nature of youth.

But with the campaign of President Barack Obama last year, and the constant connection that was made between the youth at that time and the youth on his campaign, you sort of saw people get an understanding of what JFK meant. So you had folks talking about those stories.

You had Caroline Kennedy, who came out and talked about what she witnessed. And remember, she wasn't young enough to understand that when her dad was running. So therefore her deal was, oh, I am now seeing with him what people described to me about my father. So I think maybe that's what you see folks with that.

Again, different generations look at different figures a whole different way.

BLITZER: We're looking at members of Congress and some of the staffers, who have gathered on the steps of the United States Senate to pay their respects to Senator Kennedy. We expect that motorcade to be getting there fairly soon. They're running obviously a little bit behind schedule. They had run earlier behind schedule at the Mass at the Basilica in Boston. The U.S. Air Force plane leaving the military base in Boston, left a little bit late. Now things are a little bit behind schedule here in Washington, but they'll make up with it. It doesn't get dark for a while, so they have some time to get to Arlington National Cemetery, before it does get dark

It is, though, Anderson, as we've heard, a very, very hot day in Washington.

COOPER: John King is at Arlington Cemetery for us. John, do we know how many people will be at the actual funeral service in Arlington? I mean, will the former presidents be there or are they only at the Basilica?

KING: They were only at the Basilica. Here it will be the very close family and some very close family friends, and, as Candy noted, some of the current staffers and alumni, senior alumni, those who have been invited here. About 200 people we're told to expect in all for the ceremony here, excuse me. And the current staffers had to decide, those who were invited here, if they wanted to take part in both. They had to make a choice, as Candy just noted.

But about 200 people will be on the top of the Hill. And a little cloud cover here now cooling it off a little bit here. But a very warm day in Washington. As you watch this remarkable scene on the steps of the Capitol, I should also note that there are several hundred people, maybe a little bit more than that, who have been waiting patiently. And some of our producers and others, people here before I arrived, talked to them. And they were people at the library saying farewell to Senator Kennedy in Boston, who took the Amtrak down overnight, because they wanted to be here, people from Massachusetts who wanted to be here one last time.

There are others who are tourists. There are others who live and work here in Washington who just want to be part of this moment. And so you see this collection -- again, as we saw much -- as we saw in Boston, a collection of the powerful, the important, the elected, the appointed to high office, and then a mix of everyday people, some with a personal connection in some way -- perhaps they live in Massachusetts or perhaps their family had some interaction with the Kennedys -- but many who just, for reasons of their own, decide they want to capture this moment in history, as Candy noted.

You come to this town to see its majestic sights. And the Capitol is one. This cemetery is another, a very somber place that puts you in a very somber and reflective mood. They are waiting patiently on a steamy day. It is just breath taking to see the patience.

BLITZER: That's the Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy. I want to remind our viewers tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll re-air HBO's amazing documentary, "Teddy in His Own Words." This is a two-hour especially that is totally appropriate, especially on this day. If you haven't seen it yet, even if you have, it's a good idea to watch it once again, if you can, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. "Teddy in His Own Words."

We're awaiting the arrival of the motorcade bringing the casket of Senator Kennedy to Capital Hill. Our coverage will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. You're looking at live pictures of Capitol Hill, where hundreds of folks have now gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, especially Kennedy staffers, current and former members of Congress, members of the Senate, others who have gathered here to pay their respects. Once the hearse carrying the casket of Senator Kennedy arrives -- and then right across the street from them on the other side are just average folks who have come by, whether tourists or others, who have made their way to Capitol Hill to pay their respects as well. A large crowd has gathered on Capitol Hill.

We don't know exactly when the motorcade will arrive, Anderson, but we assume it's going to be fairly soon.

COOPER: We don't believe it's departed yet from Andrews Air Force Base, but that's where the plane was heading. Running a little bit behind schedule, but they may have been able to make up some time by not staying at Andrews for quite so long.

BLITZER: I want to go back to Donna Brazile. She's been joining us as well. Donna is a long-time -- was a long-time staffer up on Capitol Hill, served for a lot of Democratic politicians. Donna, you're looking at these amazing picture, and I think, like a lot of folks out there, you're getting pretty sentimental yourself, aren't you?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. I spent most of my young adult life up on Capitol Hill. And I was listening to, I believe, Dana, Candy talk about how back in the day, members really got along. I interned for Gillis Long from Louisiana, and in the evening, after all the big work was done, Gillis would often go into one of the Capitol rooms. And as an intern, I was told to go and fetch some ice. And guys would come together, and some of the women there. And they would all have a drink and talk about the next day and the challenges ahead.

People really got along. You knew the Democrats. You knew the Republicans. But the partisanship wasn't as loud. And I tell you, the staff of Democrats and Republicans were told in the evening time that they had to sit down and work it out. And the next morning, we would get up and prepare for the hearings or the mark-up. And it was just a different time and a different era.

But many of the staffers that you're seeing now, they're not just former legislative assistants or correspondents or even chiefs of staff. They're some of their interns. Ted Kennedy was known widely on Capital Hill as a member who would bring in a lot of people from all over the country, because he wanted to have that unique experience of serving as an intern on Capitol Hill. He would recruit them. And once they finished their tenure on Capitol Hill, they often boasted and bragged that they served for Ted Kennedy. And they went on to do better things and worked in other members' offices.

But he recruited people from all walks of life to come and serve on Capitol Hill.

BORGER: You know, that's another thing, a lot of these people who worked for Ted Kennedy believe that they owe their careers to Ted Kennedy, because that was the ticket, in many ways, to lots of places in Washington. I once worked for Ted Kennedy, and that meant that you were good. And so they feel they owe their careers to him.

BASH: And so many of his current staffers and former staffers described what it was like to work for him. And everybody says, of course, that he was tough, but he also was great to work for, many of them say, because he allowed them to challenge him, many times in public, in the middle of a negotiation, when he would be sitting there with the Republican senators and Democratic senators. He didn't mind if one of his staffers would say something to him and challenge him, even in that kind of setting.

Sometimes he took their advice, sometimes not. I can tell you, other senators would have minded big time. But he didn't. And he really encouraged that. He demanded a lot, but he also gave a lot back. Staffers talk about reading briefing papers at 11:00 at night and getting a call from him at 11:30 asking, what about this, what about that? BORGER: There was the briefcase, the big black leather bag, and they would stuff it every night with things he needed to read. And that's when, as Dana was pointing out, he would read it and then he would give them a call about it. Because they knew that while they were working hard, he was working hard, too.

ROLLINS: The amazing thing for that long of a tenure is after you've been to 18,000 committee hearings, many of these members get very bored. They've heard the bills before. There's nothing on health care he hasn't already heard or done for many, many year. But he still went to these hearings. He still participated fully. Some of the more senior members basically don't show up or participate in the same way.

CARVILLE: You think about the Democratic Senate caucus, Senator Kennedy -- they lost Senator Kennedy. Senator Byrd is obviously in very frail health. I think like 14 or 15 Democratic senators came from 2006 and 2008. There is some concern that just the institutional knowledge of the caucus is not what it used to be. I mean, there's some value, as I appreciate the way the Senate works, in just knowing these rules and knowing how to move things and get things done.

As a Democrat, I worry about that a little bit. Is that fair worry?


COOPER: It's senator whose have that knowledge. It's not necessarily the staffers, because the staffers come and go, where a senator like Ted Kennedy has been there for 47 years, knows the ins and outs better than any staffer.

ROLLINS: You see more and more senators every year after one terms, two terms, three terms leaving.

BORGER: Term limits?

ROLLINS: I mean it's self-inflicted term limits. You look, Byrd has been there -- is 90. Strom Thurmond, who was the second longest, was 100. They came out of a different era. The third ranking person, now second behind Kennedy, is Inouye, was the first senator. Then, after that, everybody goes to the '70s.

CARVILLE: You look at the way Washington works now. You're a United States senator, you've been there for 12 years, 18 years; you know you can make four or five million dollars a year. You're in debt. You've gone back and forth. And your wife says, I've had enough of this. You see that happen very -- you lose a lot of people like that.

MARTIN: You get the problem with politics today; when you spend two or three terms, your opponent brands you as a Washington institution. So therefore the experience now becomes a negative, and so you pay for at the ballot box.

BORGER: You're called a career politician. Ted Kennedy was a career legislator and there aren't many of those.

CARVILLE: He was a politician, too. There's nothing wrong with --

BORGER: But how many politicians, legislators, call him what you will, have such accomplishments on their resume? Because it's harder to get done now.

CARVILLE: He was an extraordinary guy. That's why we're seeing this, is that it wasn't just that he was a Kennedy. He was a Kennedy. He was the most effective United States senator since World War II.

COOPER: What happens now to his seat? By law, right now, in Massachusetts, there has to be a special election. But there is a move to change that.

BASH: Right, exactly. John might be a better person to ask about this, since he was just in Massachusetts talking to local politicians there. But, as we all know now, Senator Kennedy really the last public thing that he did was make a move to change that. I'm told that this actually happened after a lot of consultation with his colleague, Senator John Kerry, and other members from Massachusetts.

He was worried about what would happen to his seat, because the law currently does say that there will be a special election, but it couldn't happen for five months. So right now it would be probably around January. There's nothing in place to allow an interim senator to go in his place. He wanted it to be changed to at least have somebody there, a place holder, somebody who could go and vote, somebody who wanted to promise not to run again.

COOPER: John King, let me bring you in at Arlington National Cemetery. That actually may be changing. There may be a shift to actually change the law.

KING: I was told this morning, Anderson, by some very plugged in Massachusetts politicians and operatives who worked Massachusetts politics, before the mass this morning, that they now think it is 80/20, maybe even a higher probability that that law will be changed by the middle of September.

The legislature will come back soon. The House speaker has authorized hearings to be held as soon as possible. The Senate president, I'm told, who was one of those reluctant to change the law, after speaking to Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Kennedy, has begun to move towards authorizing hearings in the Senate. The governor has said he would sign the law. When I arrived in Boston, just after the senator's death, people were saying 50/50. As of this morning, they were saying 75/25, maybe even 80/20. They believe that that law would be changed by the middle to the end of September, and that would allow an interim appointment until the special election, which is now scheduled -- they haven't picked the exact date, but it will be some time in January.

COOPER: Why was that so important for the senator to have a place holder, to have somebody in the meantime? KING: Health care votes. Pure and simple, health care votes. He knows the challenge is coming up in the United States Senate. There are other issues that could come up as well. But the single defining reason, we are told, that the senator in his final weeks wrote that letter, with the help, of course, of his wife, and those who are up there seeking his guidance -- when I talked to Bobby Kennedy about this the other day, he said that Teddy lost his ability to speak sometimes at the end, but that he could understand and he was coherent, and he would signal in other ways. He would sometimes write notes. He would sometimes grab an arm and nod his head.

He would sometimes yodel. Bobby Kennedy said he yodelled to him once. He liked to yodel. He said, sorry, that's all I have left. He was having a hard time forming his thought. But he was engaged until the very end in the issue of the day. When he realized that time was running short and that he would not be able to keep his goal of coming back to Washington and casting the votes, if the votes slipped -- remember the votes were supposed to be before the August recess, and it slipped and slipped and slipped.

At that point, they released a letter they had written in July to the Massachusetts legislature and the governor, asking for this change in the law, because they believe those votes will be held in the weeks to come. And if you wait five months, that seat would be vacant.

BLITZER: John, given the preponderance of Democrats in the state legislature in Massachusetts, the fact that there's a Democratic governor, Deval Patrick as well, it shouldn't be all that difficult to change the law. If they really want to change the law, they could do it on an expedited bases, couldn't they?

KING: They can change the law, Wolf, but they would be accused of cynicism, and they understand that, because they changed the law, Democrats did, just a few years ago, because they were worried John Kerry would win the presidency and Republican Mitt Romney would get to appoint his successor, and give that person a head start in running for Senator Kerry's seat.

So the Democrats changed the law so that Mitt Romney wouldn't have that power. And now they would be accused of playing politics, of calculated politics of changing it back, now that it would work to the Democrats' advantages.

They know that quite well. That's why some were very hesitant to do so. They also just voted to raise sales tax, Wolf. This is getting into the weeds of Massachusetts politics. But is it a political climate next year that many believe, even in a state like Massachusetts, won't be all that favorable to Democrats. So it would be another tough vote. And they understand that.

But again, in part because -- and this is quite remarkable -- Senator Kennedy's widow, as she was preparing for the wake and funeral and bringing the family together, making calls to leading members of the Massachusetts legislature, first and foremost to thank them for their thoughts and prayers, to invite them to the funeral. But I am told in several cases, including with the president of the Massachusetts Senate, who was among those reluctant to bring this legislation up, saying, I hope you understand how important this was to my husband. I hope you will remember that. Remarkable.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break as we await the arrival of Senator Kennedy, his casket coming to Capitol Hill, and then continuing on to Arlington National Cemetery. We'll continue our coverage after this.


BLITZER: We believe the motorcade bringing Senator Kennedy's casket to Capitol Hill is getting ready to leave Andrews Air Force Base. We're not one hundred percent sure. They don't allow us to go into Andrews Air Force Base to cover the arrival of the U.S. Air Force plane that brought Senator Kennedy, his family, to Washington from Boston. But we're watching it as close as we can. They're running behind schedule right now. They're going to come to Capitol Hill and continue to Arlington National Cemetery.

We're looking at the list of some of the VIPs, family members attending the ceremony at Arlington. The Vice President Joe Biden has returned to Washington with the delegation from Boston. The other Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, will be at this ceremony. Chris Dodd, the long-time friend of Senator Kennedy, will be there; the Justice Stephen Brier, of the U.S. Supreme Court, who used work for Senator Kennedy and others. There will be about 100 people, we're told, Anderson, maybe 200 that have been invited to attend the actual burial ceremony, complete with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. These are live pictures of staffers and members of Congress who have gathered on the steps to pay their tribute to the Senator.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: All waiting patiently. We've seen a number of nautical flags in the crowd. Some people have brought various nautical flags as well as American flags have been handed out, small ones. And in the crowd of tourists who are there, we've seen some large American flags as well as some signs about health care and other issues.

Before the break, we were talking about what comes next in terms of filling the seat for Senator Kennedy, whether or not they will hold -- whether they'll put in a place-holder, they'll change the law.

James Carville, during the break you said, if they do change the law and name somebody to the seat, they are unlikely to have a special election come January.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They wouldn't. They would say boy, this is very expensive to hold this. Let's wait until November for two reasons. Number one, there's a --


CARVILLE: ... 2010, a low turnout election can produce anything and the political climate right now, is such that in a low turnout election, if the Republicans are energized, they might lose a seat in Massachusetts. They're not going to take that chance. They're really not.

ED ROLLINGS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It would definitely be a Republican challenge. And Republicans won a governorship. So I don't believe in place-holders. It's like Gillibrand, here in New York, got appointed to replace Hillary. She's not a caretaker. She now has that seat. She has to get reelected to it. It's always an idiotic process. If you fill the seat, you fill the seat.

CARVILLE: But the Democrats may say, because they're going to be in it -- the Republicans did the same thing, let's be fair. I would accuse them of hypocrisy of political opportunity or something.


CARVILLE: But my guess is they'll appoint someone into -- one of the Kennedy families is going to hold the seat. Then you can't criticize.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Doesn't it depend who they appoint? If it were a Kennedy family member, if it were Michael Dukakis, that might be different. I don't know.

CARVILLE: If they appoint somebody like a congressman, some people might get made because a lot of people want to run for that seat. My guess is they'll have the election in 2010 and they'll appoint someone in an appointment. That's just a guess. But we speculate all the time, we don't need knowledge.

ROLLINS: Was it hypocrisy in 2004 when they dharchld because they didn't want a Republican governor to appoint the Senator if John Kerry won the seat?

BORGER: Hypocrisy, really?


BLITZER: We just learned that the motorcade has left Andrews Air Force Base. It's on the way to Capitol Hill. It shouldn't take long to get from Andrews, which is in Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C., to Capitol Hill. And that's where they will stop and have this -- I guess we could call it a celebration of his life up on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the capitol that he loved so much, where he spent 47 years as a United States Senator, starting literally, when he's 30 years old. That's the legal requirement you need to be in the United States, Senator -- He waited until he was 30 in the aftermath of his brothers' assassinations, President Kennedy. And he's been the United States Senator from Massachusetts ever since.

ROLLINS: It's a great story. When he first got elect the, he wanted to pay homage to the Richard Russell, who was the dean of the Senate, from Georgia, who was the most powerful Senator of all. Ted Kennedy walked in and said, "Senator, we're both elected to the Senate in our 30s, we have something in common." Russell said, "Son, I was speaker of the House and governor before I came here. And what did you do?"


Which was kind of a funny remark that Kennedy used to always sort of tell. Obviously, in the course of the years, Kennedy has far exceeded Richard Russell or anybody else.

CARVILLE: As I recall, Senator Russell was elected when had he was 29 and turned 30 between the election and the time he took office.


BORGER: Just a reminder, when Senator Kennedy first got there, not only was he young, but he was trying to figure how to maneuver the fact that his brother was in the White House and his other brother was attorney general, that he made a conscious effort to lay low and didn't talk to the national media, barely talked to the Massachusetts media, but he did as much as he could to serve the folks back home and keep his head down. That changed. He didn't have much of a choice but to be boosted to national prominence after his brother was assassinated. But that was his M.O.

It's interesting, he talked to young Senators -- Barack Obama is not one of these. But he talked to other young Senators. They say that both Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd gave them the same advice. When you come here, just keep your head done, figure the place out, do your work and don't worry about the cameras.

BLITZER: Once that motorcade arrival on Capitol Hill, we'll see the widow of Senator Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, emerge from the limousine. I suspect she will want to go up those steps and start shaking hands and receiving those people.

If you take a look at how she's behaved, Gloria, over these past few days. She's spent hours receiving the public as they walked through the library to pay their respects as Senator Kennedy's body lie in repose. I think she's going to want to reach out and touch these folks as well.

BORGER: The words that come to mind in watching Vicki Kennedy over the last days are graceful and elegant. I think Vicki Kennedy -- we saw at the memorial service last night, hugged everyone because she knew them. They were her friends, and reached out in much the same way Ted Kennedy used did. And I think you're right, she'll do that today.

BLITZER: The country has gotten to know her a little bit. We didn't know her that well before this. But now we're getting to know her, we're getting to see her, reading more about her, we're learning about her.

I wonder if Donna Brazile is still with us.

Donna, if you are, I know that you know Vicki Kennedy for some time. Tell us about this woman.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I want to agree with Gloria. I believe over the last couple of days, she has shown enormous grace and just a quite charming person. She's a native Louisianan from the southwest portion of the state. She comes from a very prominent Louisiana family, the Reggie family. She is known to be someone that is just comfortable in her own skin, truly a wonderful hostess, but she's a lawyer. She's very bright, very smart in her own right and someone with strong opinions.

But yet, in Ted Kennedy, she found her soul mate, someone who I believe not brightened his years in his life but she also added so much to his work and the volume of the work that is still to come from this wonderful icon.

BLITZER: And I think she's 55 years old, 22 years younger than Senator Kennedy. If you read Adam Clymer's excellent biography of Senator Kennedy, you learned a great deal about her role in helping him on many major political issues.

She got involved, James Carville, in helping him make some critical decisions.

CARVILLE: Her and the Reggies and the Kennedys go back a long way. Her father, who we call in Louisiana, Judge Reggie, was actually adviser -- some photographs that have emerged of him and then-Senator Kennedy together in 1960 when he was running for president. So there's a real history between the two families. They're also a very prominent Catholic family in south Louisiana.

BLITZER: He's Irish American, Catholic. She's Lebanese-American Catholic, so there's a real bond there.

CARVILLE: There really is. It goes back. There's a real history between the two families. And they have been knowing each other for a long, long time.

BORGER: She comes from a political family during the tough race that Senator Kennedy had against Mitt Romney. She was very involved in political ads and figuring out how to use advertising against Mitt Romney, remember that?

CARVILLE: Her brother is a superb -- he was a wedding photographer and our wedding -- he's done weddings. He's a nationally acclaimed wedding photographer, a very, talented guy.

BLITZER: You got the photograph on the program for the funeral mass.

John King, we're looking at live pictures now, some of the folks that have gathered across from the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Some little kids have flags there. Tell our viewers what those flags are.

KING: This is a very poignant scene, Wolf. Ted Kennedy was a man of the sea. His 50-schooner, the "Mya," besides his family, his most prized possession. If you read from right to left, Echo, Mike Kilo, EMK, Edward Moore Kennedy. Quite remarkable, this family, whoever they are, knew his love of the sea and they know the nautical flags, Echo, Mike, Kilo. The Echo also means, if you have radio silence, meaning you can't use your radio or your radio is in broken and you're in distress at sea and you communicate with these flag, Echo is about moving to the starboard. Mike in the middle means, "I am stopped. My vessel is stopped." It to warn an oncoming vessel your vessel is not moving. And Kilo, all the way over, the yellow and blue, means, "I wish to communicate." So if you just read those last two flags, you could say, "I wish to communicate my vessel is stopped." And the initials EMK, quite a fitting message on this day and a remarkable tribute from this family who obviously knew that above the -- his family came first, politics he loved, but where Ted Kennedy was most comfortable was on the water and that is the alphabet of the sea.

BLITZER: If you saw that documentary, that video that was shown last night at the John F. Kennedy Library at the wake, the celebration of life that Ken Burns put together, you saw that love of the sea. It came through from the opening frames to the final frames. Anybody who knew Senator Kennedy knew of his love of boating and the sea, what was going on off the Atlantic coast of Hyannis Port and Cape Cod, an area that he loved oh, so much.

We expect the motorcade to be arriving momentarily at Capitol Hill and to stop, and for the family to get out. And for some of those who have gathered, now waiting for a few hours, to pay their respects to this United States Senator who served for 47 years and did so much, passed so much legislation that affected almost everyone in this country.

We'll continue our coverage after this.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that Kennedy's life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard, to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity, to make real the dream of our founder. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not and he used that gift to touch as many lives, and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.


COOPER: President Obama earlier this morning at the basilica in Boston at the funeral service of Senator Kennedy.

Again, we are awaiting the arrival of Senator Kennedy's casket. The Kennedy family will be greeting some of the staffers, both current and former staffers, who have lined up on the steps of capitol, as well as hundreds, if not a few thousands. It's hard to tell from the images of tourists who just happened upon the scene and who have been waiting for several hours, who have actually been allowed much closer than I think many of them thought they would be able to get.

BLITZER: You can see they've gotten all over the stairs over there leading up to the U.S. Capitol. They've come from all over. The tourists who are across the street in the park, they've come close too. They want to be eyewitnesses to this historic event. You know, they recently completed the restoration of this visitor's center at the U.S. Capitol as well to welcome visitors from throughout the United States and indeed throughout the world. It's a hugely popular tourist attraction in Washington. They've spent a lot of money redoing it. and if folks are watching and haven't seen it yet, haven't been to Washington in a while, probably a good idea to come by and see what's going on. A lot of history there. A lot of us could learn something about the United States capitol.

Take a look at how beautiful that sight is. No matter how many times, Ed Rollin, you see that, you still get excited because it's the majestic vision of Washington.

ROLLINS: If you don't get excited by Washington, then you've been there too long, seeing the capitol, the White House, seeing the monument, the Lincoln Memorial, you have been there too long. The first time I saw it was 1972. I have been in that buildings hundreds of times, and it still excites me.

BLITZER: No matter how many times you walk into the U.S. Capital or the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, Anderson, you always get excited.

COOPER: You also forget how grand and -- the size, just of the capital. You know, as Candy Crowley was saying, about 1,000 people are sitting on those steps in that picture you're seeing right there, an enormous open public space.

ROLLINS: I always got a kick out of flying over Washington to see how many people roll the shades up to take a look at the city. If never fails. They typically always go up, just to look at all of it. It's an amazing site.

COOPER: The capital police are estimating 1,000 people gather on the steps and we're seeing 4,000 on the grounds of the capitol.

BLITZER: That's without any real notification. If you would have told the general public, come on down, a lot more would be there. It just happens to be folks that are there. And you know what, let's go and see this historic

BORGER: We were just talking earlier in the RFK Memorial, the Kennedy Center, so there is a large Kennedy imprint in D.C. as well.

BLITZER: The president of the United States, Barack Obama, delivered the eulogy at the mass earlier today. He's gone back to Martha's Vineyard. It's got one more day of vacation with his wife and kids, before he returns to Washington. He has a tough challenge ahead of him when he comes back.

We're now seeing some applause. Let's see what's going on. They're applauding Robert Byrd, the long-time Senator from West Virginia. He's been very sick lately, but he's there.

Candy Crowley is on the scene for us.

Candy, tell us what else is going on.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been pretty much what we have seen for the past couple of hours. No one has budged. Senator Byrd, they took him back in side obviously. The weather is a little unbearable on this plaza. They brought him out and he got a huge ovation as you were just hearing, and a fairly sentimental moment here for the longest serving U.S. Senator and a man he has known for some time.

The word has come out, because there is somebody that comes out and tells the crowd on the step what's going on. They said five to ten minutes away. So they know this is in fact just about to happen. We have seen the chaplain. , I don't see him right this second, but he's been out here.

Also, it's a lot of old and new faces up here, young and old, a real mix of those who understand the pass of Senator Kennedy and they understand the future of the goals he had. So it's been amazing kind of people watching. it's people who bring their children, 8, 9, 10 and they say, look, here's some history, you need to watch it, this is important. So it's a remarkable day, I think. Not many like this on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: Just to remind our viewers, once the motorcade gets to Capitol Hill, they'll spend some time there and give the folks there an opportunity to pay their respects. The casket will remain in the hearse as some of the family members go outside and meet with some of these people who have gathered on the steps. And then it will make its way down Constitution Avenue, across the Potomac River, into Virginia and the Arlington National Cemetery, where the burial will take place. All of that still coming up, we'll have live coverage of all of this throughout the next hour or two, depending on how long this lasts.

Anderson, it's going on a lot longer than the organizers had originally anticipated.

COOPER: It's running about 90 minutes or so behind schedule. This has got to be such a difficult day for Senator Byrd. We saw his reaction on the floor, where he sat down, and he wept openly. Lifelong friends with Senator Kennedy, lifelong colleagues with him. At his age, to be out there, it's got to be devastating.

BORGER: You can't understate how hard it is to be out there in this heat when he is obviously an old man and somebody who has been in very ill health. But he's been determined to be out there.

COOPER: And he's in a jacket and tie.

BORGER: A Jacket and tie, yeah.

BLITZER: I must say, he looks pretty good, given the history of his heath in recent weeks and months. He seems pretty alert. He's got the American flag in his right hand there and he's getting ready to pay his respects. CROWLEY: As Gloria said, he's somebody who has chronicles the history of the Senate more than anybody else. He clearly wanted to be there to witness a moment of history in the Senate, and also a very deep personal moment, because he was such good friends.

ROLLINS: Another interesting point, John Dingle who was sitting there who is the oldest serving member in the House. John's father was a Congressman before he was. John has been there 51 or t2 years. His father introduced the first national health care bill in the 40s. John Dingle has introduced the health care bill every single year. He was the chairman of the Commerce Committee for many years. He just lost that post this year to Henry Waxman. He worked very, very closely with Robert Kennedy over those years.

BLITZER: He's the one drinking the water, holding the crutches.

BORGER: You get to an age, if you're Robert Byrd, where you have no peers left in the United States Senate. I think he regarded Ted Kennedy as one of his last remaining peers.

COOPER: If you're watching, this is something really to stick around for. This is an image that we have never really seen before.

CROWLEY: No, we haven't.

I was just look at that building and, Gloria, I know that you were there as well. Is Senator Kennedy's hide away, and the Senators, when they reach a point of seniority, they get little offices, sometimes more than little offices in the Capital, so that it's easy to go from the Senate floor and go some place and have some privacy. Senator Kennedy's hide away was a museum. And he honored his family and he honored the memory of his brothers and he loved to take people in there. It's really right under where my office is, there in the capitol. and he had not only pictures of his brothers, he had one of the JFK. -- actually it was one of the places where he would disarm his colleagues, because he would bring them in and they would have a drink, maybe more than recently, maybe that was 10, 20 years ago, but they would be sitting there reminded of who this guy was. It was important to him, but I think it also was a tactic.

BLITZER: If you are looking at the U.S. Capital, on the right is the United States Senate. On the left is the United States House of Representatives. They divided up that way.

There isn't -- Dana, you cover it on a day-to-day basis. Between the Senators and their Representatives, not a whole lot of interaction except when they have their so-called conference committee reports, they have to work out their differences and come up with final legislation.

DANA BASH, CNN NEW CORRESPONDENT: Right, if you see where that flag is, if you go in near the dome there, that's the Rotunda. That's separates the House and the Senate. Depending on any given day, and any given issue, there is a big gulf between the House and the Senate, metaphorically, and particularly lately when you're talking about the big issues that President Obama is trying to push through. Health care becomes one of them. There is a lot of tension between those two branches in the House, in terms of who's going to do what and when. And you can't underestimate that.

BRODER: Well, let's face it, the Senators are a little bit snobby about the House members, and the House members think the Senators are out of touch because they don't have to get re-elected every two years like they do.

ROLLINS: The House of the people, election every two years. It was always more rapid -- it's where the legislation that relates to money starts, and the Senate was always the deliberative body that slowed things down, maybe not to this extent that it does today, but it really slows things down.

COOPER: It's interesting to see all these tourists there who have come, not probably realizing when they planned their trip to Washington that they would end up there on this day where history was happening, where the past is present, where the circle is being closed. Where Senator Kennedy, who were separated in life, is finally being reunited in death.

BLITZER: If you look at those faces, those are the faces of America. Today they've gathered on Capitol Hill to pay their respects to Senator Kennedy as well. These are just the tourists. These are not the staffers. These are just tourists. And perhaps other Washingtonians who have made their way to Capitol Hill. They have got their American flags and they're going to be taking pictures and e- mailing those pictures and they will be able to say they were there when Senator Kennedy's casket arrived briefly on Capitol Hill.

BORGER: There's something wonderful about the informality of it, the notion that anybody can just kind of wander in and stand there and pay their respects to the Senator as his hearse drives by.

ROLLINS: Especially when everything has been so controlled in terms of invitation only, who gets to get in and get out, so this is the only opportunity frankly I think, outside of Boston, where people have been able to pay their respects.

BLITZER: In Boston, a lot of people waited in line.

ROLLINS: Absolutely, absolutely, and folks in the Maryland, Virginia, D.C. area.

BLITZER: It's the top of the hour. It's approaching 6:00 p.m. on the east coast. So we have viewers who may just be tuning in right now. Let me reset what's going on.

These are live pictures of the U.S. Capitol. We hear the sirens. Maybe that's the motorcade showing up on Capitol Hill. They left a little while ago, Edwards Air Force Base, the casket carrying Senator Ted Kennedy. It should be arriving with the motorcade up on Capitol Hill within the next few moments, we're told. And they will stop there on their way to Arlington National Cemetery. On the steps are members of Congress and other special guests as well as a lot of former and current Kennedy staffers who have come together to pay their respects.

There you see they have gathered there. And then these are the steps of the U.S. Senate. Across the road, up on Capitol Hill, a lot of tourists and others have gathered to watch what's going on. The motorcade will pause. The widow of Senator Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, will come out and gather with other family members. They will greet. There will be some music. There will be some remarks. And then after a short while, everybody will get back in the cars and they will drive up to Arlington National Cemetery. They'll leave U.S. Capital Building, head straight down Constitution Avenue, if you're familiar with Washington, D.C., head over past the Lincoln Memorial. They'll go past before that the Washington Monument. They'll get to Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River.