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Senator Kennedy Dies at 77; Senator Saves Baby
Aired August 26, 2009 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMB. RAY FLYNN, FMR. MAYOR, BOSTON (via phone): So I've been involved in these campaigns myself, and we used to chat a lot about national politics. I was in the '60 campaign for Jack Kennedy then I was in the '68 campaign for Hubert Humphrey, and Bill Clinton's coordinator, national coordinator. You know, Teddy and I used to talk a lot about national politics.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: You know it's interesting because you also are pro-life activist and back in 2000, during the presidential election, you endorsed George W. Bush.
CHETRY: What were the conversations like when you agreed with Senator Kennedy on many things, but disagreed on others and that chose to actually endorse George W. Bush.
FLYNN: Yes, there was a lot of opportunities that we had to talk about different issues that we disagreed with. In fact, even in the '62 campaign, he ran against Eddie McCormack, our neighbor here in south Boston. I didn't support Ted Kennedy then. And supported Eddie McCormack because he was our close neighbor.
But it was never contentious with Teddy. It was never -- you know, something that was divisive. It was always -- then when I become mayor, you know, I think we probably become more done than any city in America. The Big Dig and the Ted Williams tunnel and clean up of the Boston harbor, all those major public works. That all came flowing into the city of Boston.
So Ted took each election on its own and I think that's one of the reasons why he was so successful because he could move beyond issues and ideology and...
FLYNN: And people like Orrin Hatch and Alan Simpson and all those guys knew that they had the highest level of respect for -- not only for Teddy but also for Jack and for Bobby. So there's -- the Kennedys were not these ideological, I mean, they had their strong opinions, but they took each election as it is and also move on and build new relations.
CHETRY: And I want to ask you about this. John King told me to mention it to you as well. There's so much, you know, sadness and remembering some of the tragic times, and of course, remembering the passing of Senator Kennedy. He told me to ask you about some of the good times, including the wild celebrations of St. Patrick's Day in Boston and how much Senator Kennedy loved to be a part of that rich Irish heritage.
FLYNN: Well, I remember my mother's house. She lived on -- we lived on 6th Street, right near South Boston High School, which was the site of the Kennedy-McCormack debate in 1962. But both Jack Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy marching down the street.
Jack coming into my mother's house, of course he was U.S. senator at the time, and he campaigned in South Boston when he ran for the Senate. Also was here as a congressman. So we got to know the -- know them very well. They came in to the house.
They sat down and they broke bread with all these mostly Irish immigrants at the time and they would tell stories. And -- you know, there was a great affection for Mrs. Kennedy, Rose Kennedy. I think that cannot be understated. The respect that the people had for her. Cardinal Cushing and for the Catholic priests and the nuns, they did so much for working class people.
So there was -- it was really a special relationship and I think the tragedy of Jack Kennedy and then Bobby and then Teddy just was somebody there that brought comfort in remembering the legacy of Jack Kennedy and Bros Kennedy and the Kennedy people.
CHETRY: Absolutely. This was a family that certainly had their fair share of tragedy as well as success and triumph.
Ray Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, as well as former mayor of Boston, and friend who's known Senator Kennedy since the 1960s. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is with us. And Dana, you know, this was wildly expected, the type of cancer that Senator Kennedy was living with. The average life- expectancy from diagnosis, the death is about 14 months. He lived some 15 months after diagnosis. But certainly, still really shocking and there's reverberations being felt across the political world this morning.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You said it very well. I mean people, obviously, were very prepared for this in terms of their head, but perhaps not in terms of their heart, especially his colleagues in the Senate that he spent so much time with up until last May.
You know we talked a lot about the fact that he has been known to reach across the aisle despite his fiercely liberal political leanings. And you know I can just share one anecdote. I was deeply honored to be asked, John, a couple of years ago by Senator Kennedy to emcee a dinner that he did for several years running outside of Congress, but with one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, that is the House Republican leader, John Boehner. Senator Kennedy and John Boehner did this -- hosted a fund raiser for a Catholic charity. It actually specifically to raise money for schools that were aided by Catholic charities. And it was a remarkable kind of evening that I was able to spend but also a really good illustration of the fact that, not just because of political necessity or a necessity of actually getting something done legislatively in Congress, but also outside of Congress, he really did join hands with even his fiercest enemies politically to get things done, that he really felt near and dear to him in terms of -- in terms of issues like education is a great example.
ROBERTS: You know like his politics or not, he was such an impressive figure there in the halls of the Senate, and while he hasn't been there that much since his diagnosis in May of last year, certainly now his passing is going to leave an enormous void in that building.
BASH: No question about it. I mean, look, he is somebody who actually understood the impact of his presence. Very -- he was very self-aware. I guess it was probably hard not to be when you were Ted Kennedy.
And I'm just going to give you another example of something that really did strike me. Probably one of the last times that Senator Kennedy returned to the Senate. We got a heads up that he was coming, I was outside of the Capitol building and he drove up. He was coming back for a big vote because they needed his vote, the Democrats needed his vote.
And I remember him driving up and there were blackened windows, and all of a sudden, he rolled the window down and gave that trademark smile, and walked out. And you know, to me, it was a reminder of -- one of the main Kennedy legacies, which is that they understood the power of the camera.
Earlier than pretty anybody did. That you know, those images of Camelot, as soon as he saw the cameras, he rolled down the window. He kind of -- you know, got his Irish up, as some of his colleagues like to say, and not only walked out with a smile but walked over to us when we screamed questions to him, because he understood the need to kind of -- you know, to show.
BASH: And to show that he is still present in many ways and he, of course, was very much on message about what he came back for and I believe it was the stimulus at the time.
ROBERTS: Yes. Those appearances after his diagnosis were such moments. That one when he came to cast the vote. When he was there for the inauguration. And then this time, last year, at the DNC convention in Denver. And I remember it was a year ago to the day of his death that he appeared there and there was all the speculation as to whether or not he was going to be able to attend.
CHETRY: Right. ROBERTS: And we heard that he was in the building. Was he going to be able to come out or not? We didn't know. But he eventually did and the very last lines of his speech, really, echoing what he had said back in the DNC in 1980. Let's re-run that moment from 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And Dana, I remember being there that night and when he came out, wow, he looks like he's in terrific shape considering what he had been through, the cancer surgery, the chemotherapy, et cetera.
ROBERTS: But really a demonstration of the passion, the fire that burn within him for politics and what he believed in.
BASH: No question about it. And you know, there -- applying his own words of -- applying on the words that he gave at the Democratic convention in 1980, his most famous word probably saying that the dream shall never die. That's when he lost the Democratic primary fight to then President Jimmy Carter.
But there's no question about it. You know when he -- you know, even with the diagnosis, even with some orders from his doctor that it was really a bad move to be flying almost across the country to Colorado to be giving that speech, he said, you know, he was going to do. And he -- it was touch and go.
You remember that night, it was really unclear if he was actually going to be able to show up and you know, there with the typical Kennedy drama and sense of theater he did show up and gave that speech because he was very aware that that was obviously not only a big forum but probably one of the last big forums that he would be able to speak at.
ROBERTS: And a very special night for the Democratic Party.
Dana Bash, thanks. Stay with us. We'll be back in just a little bit later on.
CHETRY: Another notable thing about that is he sounded so strong, his voice.
ROBERTS: He did. It was...
CHETRY: The way we heard him...
ROBERTS: It was remarkable. CHETRY: It's hard to believe that the diagnosis is terminal brain cancer at the time hearing from him. And speaking of that, we're going to talk just for a few minutes with Sanjay Gupta, who actually, incidentally, is in Dublin at a cancer -- big cancer conference taking place in Ireland.
Sanjay, a neurosurgeon understand probably better than any of us what exactly it means to be diagnosed with a malignant glioma which is what they eventually Senator Kennedy with after he suffered a seizure at his home back in May of 2008.
And Sanjay, is this condition always fatal?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): That's a good question. There have been some survivors of this type of tumor, longer-term survivors. But the average survival is around 14 months. And this is a life expectancy that hasn't budged much. It really doesn't evolve with medicine.
It's a tough tumor to treat, as you know. Kiran, you mentioned I'm here in Dublin, Ireland, the place of Kennedy ancestry and at this global cancer summit. As you might imagine, today the discussion is all about Teddy and a lot of discussion about him and this particular type of tumor.
As you remember, you know, when he was diagnosed, he had a seizure which is oftentimes the way that someone first learned that they have a tumor like this. And then he had the operation down at Duke University. It's exactly the type of therapy that typically takes place.
But to your point, Kiran, I've heard of people living years with tumors like this, but the average is frighteningly low.
CHETRY: And I want to ask you about that, because he had surgery after it happened, right? It was at Duke University Medical Center, that he underwent surgery. At the time the doctor said they removed as much of the tumor as possible. That was just a month after that first seizure.
They considered the procedure a success at the time and then he underwent the follow-up treatments, radiation as well as chemotherapy. Why is it then that even though the surgery was considered a success and he also underwent some of the other procedures meant to, you know, get rid of remaining cancer cells, that there isn't a better prognosis for the glioma he had?
GUPTA: Right. Right. You know the operation, you might remember, Kiran, was an awake brain surgery. In part, because this tumor was so close to areas of the brain that are responsible for his ability to speak, his ability to receive speech, understand, and his ability to have movement on the right side of his body.
So the operation being a success, in part, with, you know, removing as much of a tumor as they can, but certainly not all of it. And this is a tumor that tends to invade parts of the brain and it can be very hard to remove the entire tumor, even with the radiation, even with the chemo.
The hard thing about this particular type of tumor is that, even if a few cells remain, which they often do, those cells can start to divide and grow again. And that's sort of the history of a tumor like this. You'll remember it was back in May of '08 when he first had that seizure, learned of his tumor a few days later. Then he had another seizure a few months later and then another one.
That was probably some evidence that the tumor may have re-grown to a certain extent. And that's just what happens to tumors like this. Again, that 14-month time crib is across all age groups that develop this type of tumor. But it's a pretty good average, again, unfortunately, for malignant glioma.
CHETRY: Right. And it's interesting, you just answered the question. I was about to ask how much does age play a role in it. I mean he looked so strong as we said when we saw him speaking at the Democratic National Convention.
CHETRY: And he looked as though somebody who's sort of won that battle. And I know, even though he was 77, that's a pretty advanced age to undergo many of the things we're talking about. Chemo, as we know, can be very taxing on the body, as well as radiation.
Is there anything that makes that diagnosis or prognosis rather better? Meaning, can you discover quicker or is it just in some cases the luck of the draw if you get that type of tumor? There's really that you can do about it.
GUPTA: Well, certainly, you know, earlier diagnosis helps as -- for example, sometimes these tumors are found for other reasons. Somebody may have had a headache or a -- is going to involved in a car accident or something and they get a scan which shows a tumor at a very, very early stage. And that can be helpful.
Certainly someone who is younger that develops a tumor like this is likely to have a better outcome from this as well. There are sort of different treatments that are being developed and that's part of what's been discussed here at this global cancer summit.
How to better treat this type of tumor? Are there vaccines that might be developed? Are there certainly viruses that can be used to attack the tumor specifically? And again, some of those things are being tried right now in various hospitals.
GUPTA: Around the United States and around the world. But you know, as far as the gold standard, Kiran, which you accurately mentioned, you know, having surgery and then radiation and chemotherapy, you know, it's one of those things where you have some people who will just have a fantastic result from that.
But the vast majority of people still fall into this area of around, you know, anywhere from nine months to a couple of years of survival. Again, with 14 being the average.
GUPTA: It is -- I'm always reluctant, I'll tell you as a neurosurgeon, to tell place numbers on survival or to, you know, this question came out a lot from the time of Senator Kennedy's diagnosis. And you know, we just never know. There are some people who just do remarkable well with these sorts of treatment. And you know, 15 months was better than average for him.
CHETRY: Right. Well, we want to thank you for your expertise. Just real quickly, is it genetic or is there any pre-determination. I mean is lifestyle, is there anything that makes you more likely to get a brain tumor or is that just one of those oddities in medicine?
GUPTA: Well, there's a lot of belief that there are some sort of relationship to environmental factors. We're not exactly sure how does environmental factors play a role or if they somehow compound someone's -- someone may have a gene that sort of predisposes them if you will.
GUPTA: To brain cancer. And then something in the environment sort of triggered that. But they're not exactly sure, still, how that works. Now that we're looking at specific genes, my guess is, and from talking to researchers even here in Dublin, is that we're going to find some genes that are most associated with this type of cancer, even be able to capture those genes at some point.
GUPTA: So that may be some good news on the forefront of this type of cancer.
CHETRY: A wide area of research open to improving treatments and also diagnosis. And boy, I know you guys are discussing it at this cancer summit, as well.
Sanjay Gupta, joining us this morning from Dublin, Ireland. Thank you for your insight.
ROBERTS: I want to go live now outside of the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. There's a picture there. A security cordon has been set up. There have been some comings and goings, not a tremendous amount of activity but we expect that is going to pick up as the sun begins to rise there over at Cape Cod.
You know when you look back at the legislative accomplishments of Senator Ted Kennedy the word "right" certainly comes into a lot of the legislation that he's been involved in. 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the No Child Left Behind Act in the early days of the Bush administration.
In 2006 Senator Kennedy got together with our Larry King to talk about his new book, America: Back -- what was then his new book, "America: Back on Track." And he talked about the social barriers that had fallen from the time that Senator Kennedy first assumed office in the Senate in 1962 to the present.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: The title of your book is interesting. "Back on Track." When were we on track? When did it go off track? Were we on track in the Clinton years?
KENNEDY: Well, let me put it in, perhaps, some historic times, a way that I really sort of told the story in the book. When I sort of entered the political process, helping my brother, seeing him get elected in the '60s. We had a sort of a whole new generation. It really came back from World War II and young people have accepted great responsibility.
And then they got elected for -- into a public service. And we had a vision about the Soviet Union. We're going to have containment of the Soviet Union. We were dealing with the issues of nuclear proliferation abroad.
And you know what we did here at home? We responded to the leadership of Dr. King and we addressed the issue which we have never been prepared which our founding fathers bailed on. That is the issue of race.
And we dealt with that in the early 1960. Republicans or Democrats. They country came together. Knocked down the walls of discrimination. And made enormous progress. We're not there yet but we are -- we've made enormous progress and we did an agenda, knock down the title 9, knock down the walls of discrimination and agenda.
Made an enormous progress to include the disabled into the American family, 42 million of those. At the same time, what we were doing, we passed the Medicare program to make sure that our seniors were not going to live in poverty and be able to get a health care, Medicaid, to look after the neediest of the people.
And also, made a commitment that we were going to educate every young person that they were able to get into school in college and not say that the size of their pocketbook and wallet was going to restrict them to go to any place. And we started out with the Higher Education Act that at 80 percent in grants, rather then loans. So you didn't -- you weren't indebting all of these younger people.
We did all of this part here. This is with Democrats and Republicans. It was the vision. The big -- we were saying what do we need to do here? We did this and we had an economic prosperity at that time, economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Senator Ted Kennedy along with Larry King in April of 2006 talking about his new book, "America Back on Track."
Let's bring in noted presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley. He's joining us on the telephone this morning.
And Doug, when you look at, you know, the name Senator Ted Kennedy it is indelibly associated with the word "rights" and he was a tireless, tireless champion of the rights, particularly of the disenfranchised in this country.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that's right. You know he used to open extended office back in the '60s and '70s. So if you were a protester, somebody coming to picket something in Washington, you're always welcome to come to Kennedy's office, get water, get something to eat, perhaps even get a word with the senator himself.
He believed in listening to Vietnam veterans who were -- wanted to start talking about the effects of Agent Orange or the fact that (INAUDIBLE) were burned in Vietnam. He wanted to listen to migrant workers that came to D.C. who had worked with Cesar Chavez and had stories of woes of what health conditions for why Kennedy at Vineyard King Valley.
I mean he would listen to African-American leaders, not just the ones in the Martin Luther King strike or who were at the very top of their game, but just rank-and-file street workers or co-workers, thought they could congregate around Kennedy and express what they were felling to him.
This was different than his two brothers, since Brother John F. Kennedy had become into power, you know, so quickly. Winning the 1960 election. That there was a disconnect between John F. Kennedy and everyday people.
And Robert Kennedy, certainly in 1968 when he rolled up his shirt sleeves and had a past with Chavez, and I was prepared to go in the Appalachians and the Delta, had a feel for the poor. But it was Ted Kennedy who became the representative of people themselves they weren't being counted.
Their vote wasn't counting. Their voices weren't being heard and Kennedy -- that's symbol of the two almost viceroy hurricane that people that democracy or our country's democracy didn't have a place for them. So he became this giant, you know, bounce of wisdom about the people on the poorest side of the margin.
And he came their great -- earned a spot as their great champion. Today when African-Americans (INAUDIBLE), for example, talk about loving these Kennedys, what they're really talking about is loving Teddy Kennedy.
ROBERTS: You know, Doug, you said that the, you know, he was such a fierce champion for people's right. And you never have to guess where he stood on things because he was very vocal about the things that he believed n.
He really was one of the truly great orders of that -- that body of the Senate, wasn't he?
BRINKLEY: Well, that's a good point. Look, there are a lot of people that might be of equal -- with, you know, legislative time and bill making as Ted Kennedy, but none also had that skill of raising up this temperature in a room.
He was always, and I can say this personally, I would always go to the Democratic convention, and it was the Kennedy speech you were excited to hear. He used to be was billed higher than a president or president-elect because he just knew he'd give a stem-winder (ph). And that was one of this great gifts. He had a way with words that he could move policy with rhetoric.
ROBERTS: And you know, he had that book out. "America Back on Tract" that he talked with Larry King about in 2006. He had another memoir that was due out in October, as well, Doug?
BRINKLEY: That's correct. What happened was he's been (INAUDIBLE) a couple of projects in the last couple of years. One is an old history project with the University of Virginia, with the Miller Center there, and which he was been sitting and taping tape recorder then asked questions about political sciences and historians about his life. And that's going to be a great primary most scholars to understand all these issues, years from now.
But secondly and more urgently, he's been rushing and it's a great city. He didn't make it to October to watch the book's launch. It's probably would have premiered at number one. But it's going to be a memoir of his life. He was working on it with James Bradley who helped -- who wrote a book called "Wild Boys" about President George Herbert Walker Bush in World War II as a fighter pilot.
Very fine, distinguished historian/writer who Kennedy tapped to help him with his memoir and they've been working on I feverishly this entire year and I'm told -- actually it's finished now. What's in it was certainly Ted Kennedy's input is no over but they're wrapping up the book and it will be out in October. And it'll be more anecdotes and more insights from the great senator.
ROBERTS: You've written so many books, Doug, about so many prominent people, whether they be in politics or whether they'd be outside of politics. How would you sum up? If you were to write the last chapter of your book, how would you sum up Senator Edward Kennedy's life and legacy?
BRINKLEY: The word champion will be there. You know he was a champion of the under dog. He was the champion of the (INAUDIBLE). The champion of people who needed to hear their voices. That this child of wealth who grew up in the shadow of two more famous brothers, and had gone through the host of personal trauma of Chappaquiddick, somehow managed to rise from the ashes of that into decades after decades, amass the most impressive legislative record in the United States, certainly since some of the great senators at the early part of the 20th century.
He is one of those four, five great senators in American history and post-World War II history, he's the great liberal champion. The person who most effectively carried the flame of the new deal and the great society to the masses, particularly during the (INAUDIBLE) era of the Reagan-Bush years.
ROBERTS: Historian Doug Brinkley, it's good to talk to you this morning, my friend. Thanks very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
BRINKLEY: Thank you, John, as always.
CHETRY: And it's 27 minutes passed the hour right now. If you're just joining us, we are weighing in this morning on the life and legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy. We got the news about four hours ago that he passed away after his 16-month struggle with a malignant brain tumor.
We have some live pictures this morning that we want to bring you to. One is in McLean, Virginia. This is the Kennedy home there. You see some lights on inside right now.
McLean is a suburb of Washington, D.C. A place where a lot of people used to live as they serve their time in public office, in the House and Senate. A very beautiful place. Also Hyannis Port, this morning, Massachusetts. And there you see the police presence at the family compound there.
This is where Senator Kennedy, according to his family, passed away at his family home in the early morning hours after, again, his struggle with a malignant brain tumor. He was diagnosed after suffering a stroke while at home back in May, 2008.
This is a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING: We are getting a chance to speak to many people of all political stripes who knew Senator Kennedy. People who worked with him, people who perhaps worked against him on the other side of the aisle, but at the same time, all respected him for his work and his tireless work in the Senate some 47 years almost. And it was 46 years and nine months that he was there in the Senate.
Known as the Lion of the Senate, and certainly many, many condolences coming in this morning of just how much he'll be missed.
ROBERTS: Yes, absolutely. And we're hearing from so many different people, from the president to Nancy Reagan, the Senate majority leader, Governor Schwarzenegger.
We should probably read to you the statement, I guess, that the president put out about an hour and a half ago.
He said, quote, "Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For five days, virtually every piece of major legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
"I value his wise counsel, values his wise counsel in the Senate, where regardless of the swirl of events he always had time for a new colleague. I cherish his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I profited, this president, from his encouragement and wisdom.
"An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time. And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to them today. To his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family. President Barack Obama."
CHETRY: He was hoping to meet with him, as we understand, while vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, wondering and leaning up in the possibility of the chance for them to get together and meet. As you know, not only were they Senate colleagues for a short time, but then he famously, Senator Kennedy, endorsed Barack Obama. There was a big jockeying for that endorsement. That huge and ever important endorsement from the Kennedy clan as well as from Caroline.
He formally endorsed him back in January of 2008, January 28th, in fact, when, you know, Hillary Clinton, of course, also close with the Kennedys, was hoping to get that endorsement.
ROBERTS: Yes. It was a big disappointment for the Clintons certainly because they had had that long friendship with Senator Kennedy.
ROBERTS: Our John King is in Oklahoma City. And John, let's talk about just a little bit. As Kiran was saying, everybody was vying for the endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy. He eventually gave it to Barack Obama. And what was the reason for that? What was the thinking behind that endorsement?
JOHN KING, HOST, CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION": I remember, John -- and good morning to you, John and Kiran. Again, I remember doing a reporting at the time because it was such a dramatic thing. The legendary Ted Kennedy, not only putting his name but the Kennedy family stamp of approval, if you will, on the Obama candidacy at a very tough time and a very competitive time in the Democratic primaries.
And in talking to many sources very close to Senator Kennedy, they said several things that stuck out at the time. One they were -- he was very concerned and very offended that some of the things former President Clinton had said that he thought were playing the race card in the South Carolina primary timeframe.
Number two, he also said he believed that Senator Clinton would have a much harder time winning the election. As much as he respected her and as much as he admired her, because of the Clinton baggage, if you will, she was viewed as a more polarizing figure. Her stand among independents was much less, much lower than then-senator Barack Obama's candidacy.
And number three, and most of all, they say this is what suade him the most. That the younger members of the Kennedy family were enthralled by the prospect and the possibility of Barack Obama, the first African-American president. They viewed him as someone who might be able to end the polarization and the deep partisanship in Washington.
And they thought that it was time, as the Kennedy family often talks about, of passing the torch to someone and something new. They saw in candidate Obama not only a special candidate, as Senator Kennedy often called him, but a movement. A political movement, not just a campaign.
And that is why he decided to make the decision after wrestling with is for quite some time because he knew the impact it would make and he knew the risk he was taking. And that after he did make that decision, John, you saw it in the campaign, he didn't just give that big speech saying, "I endorse Barack Obama," he then went to small union halls, he went to big rallies, he went to the Latino communities, into the barrios.
He went all over the country, to African Americans, the Latinos, to union members, saying, "If you were with me at any time in my career, it is time for you to now come here." And he had so much fun. It was before the cancer hit him. He had so much fun in the last campaign and he greatly enjoyed being what he would call a small part, but Barack Obama would call him much more significant part of his ultimate success.
ROBERTS: We are monitoring things at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port. And we saw one picture as Doug Brinkley was on the telephone with us that we want to replay for you. This apparently is the coroner's van leaving the Kennedy compound. We do not know if the remains of Senator Ted Kennedy were being taken out of the compound, but we did have confirmation from police, John, that indeed was the coroner's van leaving the Kennedy compound.
CHETRY: And as we look at those pictures, Kennedy himself, of course, knew that unfortunately death was inevitable as a result of this malignant brain tumor that he was diagnosed with back in May of 2008. One of the things that he wanted was to make sure that his legacy lived on especially as it related to the current fight over health care.
And John, I want to ask you about the status of this situation. Basically he wrote a letter urging officials in Massachusetts to change a law to allow for an immediate temporary replacements so that there would be two senators representing Massachusetts should he -- I mean, obviously, pass away.
Where does that stand right now given everything that's going and given the fact that they're on a recess and probably wouldn't convene until after Labor Day?
KING: It would be quite interesting to see the statements as day breaks in Massachusetts from Governor Patrick, from legislative leaders, as to whether they want to take that step, because when Senator Kennedy wrote that letter asking for the law to be changed so that there could be a temporary appointment from the governor until a special election could be held.
As much as all the Democrats in Massachusetts understood and empathized with his reasoning, that he wanted a Democratic vote in Washington as soon as possible in case health care and other big issues came to a vote on the floor, they viewed it as such an extraordinary request and such a dramatic request that many privately would say they thought, again, as much as they empathized with his reasons, that is was a bit beyond normal. And that it might too extraordinary to take this step.
It will be interesting to see if now -- this moment has come, whether the climate in Massachusetts changes and there is an effort to do that. The Republicans have said they will consider that out of bounds. The key question there, and again as we talk about the life and achievement of Senator Kennedy some might this a bit distasteful but it is very important to know that his loss comes at a time his vote and his voices are very much missed in the United States Senate on the health care reform debate.
And if Massachusetts takes the five months that the state law called to fill his seat, that could be, that could be quite a debilitating blow. The Democratic efforts to get health care reform through the Senate and to forge some sort of a compromise with the house, whether that is Democratic compromise or whether there are more bipartisan negotiation.
So the raw politics of Massachusetts is that with this generational passing, not only do they have to decide who will replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate after 47 years. But there are key political decisions to make in the short term about just how long that process will take.
ROBERTS: John King in Oklahoma City. John, stay with us.
We want to bring in Gloria Borger right now. She's in Washington for us. And Gloria, just picking up on the thoughts of John King was talking about. We talk about this because this was such an important issue for Senator Kennedy appealing to Governor Patrick and the Senate president Therese Murray to change the law to allow for an interim appointment.
Therese Murray originally was opposed to this idea but in the last couple of days has come around to it and perhaps might be entertaining it. Do you know where all of this stands?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think, you know, you have a legislature that's in recess and I think it's a very fluid situation right now. I mean, as John was saying, Senator Kennedy's vote was so important to Democrats on the issue of health care reform which was the defining issue probably of his political life.
And they want to make sure that they have those 60 votes and that's what Ted Kennedy was trying to do when he wrote that letter. I think you have to believe that in death his letter has even more power than it did when he originally wrote it. And I think that there's going to be a lot of discussion between folks in the Senate and folks in the state of Massachusetts.
CHETRY: You know, Gloria, and whether you agree with him politically or not, he made health care and universal health care really the fight of his life and it was only back in 1972 that he wrote a book, it was called "In Critical Condition: The Crisis in America's Health Care." That was all the way back in 1972.
As we've seen over the past month, the tone has sometimes taken a very divisive turn over this health care debate. People have made it personal in some ways. There's been some misinformation out there, perhaps, from both sides.
Will that tone change because of the passing of Senator Kennedy?
BORGER: You know, it probably won't. And I think the irony is that if Ted Kennedy were still in the Senate the tone might have been different to begin with. You know when I think of Ted Kennedy I think of the sort of power of relationships in the Senate. And the fact that here is a liberal who walked across the aisle and cut deals with folks across the aisle more times than I can count.
And you heard the statement, I think you read it on the air earlier from Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a conservative Republican, one of Ted Kennedy's best friends. You know this was somebody who knew when to cut a deal. Don't forget, on No Child Left Behind, the person that President Bush was dealing with was Senator Ted Kennedy.
And so, if he had been in the Senate, I think the tone might have been a little bit different on health care, because by the way he might have gone to President Obama, and we don't know that he hasn't already done that, and said look, this is where you need to cut your deal and this is what you need to do. You know he understood the power of persuasion.
There are so many stories that I've been told that when Ted Kennedy was working on a piece of legislation, he didn't just pick up the phone and call you in your office, senator to senator, he would walk over to your office many times with his dog with him, walk over to your office and sit down and have a conversation face to face and try and work things out.
That is missing from the Senate these days. And if he had been there in health care, I think it might have made a large difference.
CHETRY: Gloria Borger for us this morning. Stick with us. Thank you. We'll be coming back to you throughout the morning as well.
ROBERTS: Yes, stay with us. Actually we want to come back to you in just a couple of moments.
I mean when you talk about the life and legacy of Ted Kennedy there were so many bright spots, but you know, unfortunately, there were dark spots as well. And perhaps the darkest moment of his life came on July 18th, 1969 when driving back from a party in Chappaquiddick he drove his car off a bridge.
Mary Jo Kopechne was in the car with him. The car overturned and sank. Senator Kennedy insists that he made several attempts to try and get her out of the car but became exhausted and had to give up. He did not report that accident until the next day, though, and that is really where the controversy lies.
Why was there that length of time between the accident and the time that he reported it. And that incident was widely seen as the reason why he could never become president of the United States. And about a week after the incident, July 25th, 1969, the senator went on national television to apologize for it.
Let's re-roll that moment in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: Today, as I mentioned, I felt morally obligated to plead guilty to the charge of leaving a scene of an accident. No words in my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic incident.
This last week has been an agonizing one for me and for the members of my family. And the grief we feel over the loss of a wonderful friend will remain with us the rest of our lives.
These events, today, innuendo, and (INAUDIBLE) which has surrounded them and my admission of guilt this morning raises the question in my mind of whether my standing among the people of my state has been so impaired that I should resign my seat in the United States Senate.
If at any time the citizens of Massachusetts should lack confidence in their senator's character or his ability, with or without justification, he could not, in my opinion, adequately perform his duties and should not continue in office.
The people of this state, the state which sent John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner and Henry Cabot Lodge and John Kennedy, to the United States Senate are entitled to representation in that body, by men who inspire their utmost confidence.
For this reason, I would understand full well why some might think it right for me to resign. For me this will be a difficult decision to make. It has been seven years since my first election to the Senate. You and I share many memories, some of them have been glorious, some have been very sad.
The opportunity to work with you and serve Massachusetts has made my life worthwhile. And so I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and opinion in making it, I seek your prayers. For this is a decision that I will have finally to make on my own.
It has been written, a man does what he must in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality. Whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience, the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men, each men must decide for himself the course he will follow.
The stories of the past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision. Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall have be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some further contribution to our state and mankind whether it be in public or private life.
Thank you and good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: A moment of history from July 25th, 1969. Senate Ted Kennedy talking about the accident in Chappaquiddick that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne.
CHETRY: And many say it impacted his decision not to run for president in 1972, a few years later.
Gloria Borger has followed president, rather Senator Kennedy for years and she knows a lot about many aspects of his life. She joins us now from the Washington bureau this morning.
And just refresh us a little bit more for people that don't know just how big of an impact that tragedy took on his future political aspirations.
BORGER: Well, it could have cost him the presidential nomination. And in fact, in a piece I once did on Senator Kennedy I actually asked him about Chappaquiddick. We were walking on the beach in Hyannis and I asked him about it and he stopped in his tracks and he said, this is something I will live with for the rest of my life and I live with it every of my life.
And you know, it is clear to me that he did. And that after Chappaquiddick it affected his life in so many ways and his political fortune in so many ways. And once he lost that bid for the presidency failing to succeed in his bid to take on Jimmy Carter, he took a turn and he decided to become a legislator. And that's what you, folks, have been talking about this morning.
That once he did not get the presidency, he became the legislator of a lifetime and I think, if you look for parallels in history they're really hard to find because you don't find many who have been involved in so many issues in so many ways and he was a politician who was able to take up every major issue of his time.
And so suffering major defeats in his life coming to the Senate as a true liberal, yet maturing in many ways as somebody who was able to walk across the aisle and actually get things done. CHETRY: Yes, it was very interesting, and you know, there was some who say that it was almost a lifting of a curse, if you will, that he didn't have president ambitions anymore, the curse of the Kennedys, of course, because of the tragedies that befell his brothers.
CHETRY: And it was back in 1985 where he renounced any presidential ambitions to his voters in Massachusetts and he said, I will run for reelection to the Senate. I know this decisions means I may never be president, but the pursuit of the presidency is not my life, public service is. And then we know...
BORGER: That's right.
CHETRY: ... what happened over the next two decades and five years.
BORGER: You know and I remember talking to Senator Kennedy about the question of this Kennedy curse. You know Kennedys are always asked about that because their family has been beset by so much tragedy. And he looked at me and he said, there's no curse on the Kennedy family. He said we're blessed. We're a blessed family.
Look at what we've achieved, look at what we've done. And he said I believe we have God's blessing and we are not a family that's been cursed.
CHETRY: He, of course, was -- knew all too well, though, what it was like to live with tragedy, as we know, his father was....
CHETRY: Died of -- after being incapacitated with a stroke back in '69 and it really left this youngest member of the clan, the ninth of nine children, as the de facto head of the family after that. He watched both of his older brothers -- three of his older brothers die. Two of them at the hands of assassins. And even his children suffered.
As we know his son lost his leg to bone cancer and his daughter, actually, Kara, also was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2003.
CHETRY: Yet, despite all of that tragedy, as you said, he looked at, as a whole, his life as really a blessed one.
BORGER: Right. And don't forget the death of John Jr. was very, very difficult for Senator Kennedy. I remember standing in his office looking at a picture with him of John Jr. addressing the Democratic convention on the wall, and this was some months after he died in that plane crash. And the senator could barely speak because it seemed at that point before John Jr.'s death that he was the one to carry the political mantel on for the rest of the family.
And of course, that was not to be but I think that was truly Senator Kennedy's hope and with the death of his brothers he truly did become the patriarch of the family. He gave Caroline away at her wedding. Was very close to Caroline as well as her children. And became kind of a surrogate grandfather for them.
CHETRY: Gloria Borger for us. You're right, and that was another huge tragic event that took place and we all remember that situation and we remember the heartbreak that the entire Kennedy clan felt at losing John Jr. as well.
We're going to check in with you throughout the morning, Gloria. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Looking at live pictures this morning in Hyannis Port. This is outside of the Kennedy compound. Some activity there just a little while ago. A coroner's van that have been there for several hours left. We do not know if the van was carrying away the remains of Senator Ted Kennedy or not. Just the fact that the coroner was there and the coroner's van.
There's that tape of that. That's about 40 minutes ago now that that coroner's van left the Kennedy compound.
We should be getting more information out this as the sun is beginning to come up over Hyannis Port. I'm sure that the Kennedy family will have one of the senator's spokespeople out there to talk to us about how things will progress in the coming hours and what the plans will be for funeral and obviously what will also be a huge memorial service for Senator Kennedy as well.
We're getting tributes to the senator coming in from across this country and around the world. Let's go to Number 10 Downing Street. That's where our Nic Robertson is this morning, outside of the prime minister's residence with reaction from there in England and around the world.
Good morning, Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Well, reaction from Prime Minister Gordon Brown this morning, praising the Senator Kennedy, saying he'll be missed not just here in Great Britain but around the world, in particular, he said, he'll be missed for the work that he'd done for children around the world, improving their health care and improving their education.
A personal message, too, and a statement from 10 Downing Street. Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah say their thoughts very much with the Kennedy family at the moment. But perhaps Senator Kennedy will be best remembered in Britain for his role in helping bring peace to Northern Ireland and Gordon Brown paid tribute to Senator Kennedy when he was speaking to U.S. Congress in March this year, announcing an honorary knighthood for Senator Kennedy for his work in improving and helping British-American relations and also for the work that he'd done in Northern Ireland. Senator Kennedy here in Britain is remembered for the work that he did behind the scenes in 1994, helping convince then-president Bill Clinton to allow Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA involved in the 30-year fight in Northern Ireland for more independence and nationalism in Ireland.
Senator Kennedy helped influenced Bill Clinton to allow Gerry Adams to come to United States, to get a visa for a visit, and it was after that visit, the IRA went home to a cease-fire in 1998. There was a peace agreement.
And so Kennedy seen as being a very influential figure. I was speaking a little earlier with the British justice minister here, Jack Straw, talking to him about that role. He said, again, it was an important role, not without controversy, however. Senator Kennedy was seen as being somewhat partisan in his politics and Ireland as supporting, if you will, the Catholic nationalist position.
But former Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised Senator Kennedy today as well, saying that it was his commitment and understanding of what it took to bring peace in Northern Ireland that was so important in this peace process.
So he will be missed here, as Gordon Brown has said, missed around the world, but in particular, recognized as being a very close friend, very few Americans honored with an honorary knighthood here in Britain, John.
ROBERTS: You know, and, Nic, he certainly wasn't afraid to speak his mind and in a 1971 gave a speech in which he said -- about Northern Ireland -- all this threatens to become Britain's Vietnam, which earned him widespread criticism there in Britain.
ROBERTSON: It did. He's also remembered by some of the conservative politician, who of course here during -- in Downing Street, during the '80s and '90s, whenever the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would visit the United States Senator Kennedy was quite often reportedly seen in the photographs and around her wearing a bright green tie. An indication of sort of his affiliations and thinkings on Northern Ireland.
So it's not without controversy and also conservative politicians who suffered personally at the hands of IRA bombers, who have questioned the honorary knighthood that's been bestowed upon him, John.
ROBERTS: Nic Robertson for us live outside 10 Downing Street this morning. Nic, thanks so much for that.
CHETRY: Ted Kennedy touched many people in his long life as a U.S. senator but one family's dramatic take probably tops everything.
Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen shows us how Senator Kennedy's secret midnight phone call wound up saving a baby girl's life.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was called the "littlest refusenik," Jessica Katz. In 1977 the brutal Soviet regime denied her family exit visas even though she was in desperate need of medical attention from the west.
Born with a nutritional deficiency, Jessica was dying. From the age of two months to six months, she gained not a single ounce.
BORIS KATZ, JESSICA'S FATHER: She was getting weaker and weaker by the way. And we were so scared.
COHEN: Jessica's parents, Boris and Natalya Katz, shown here demonstrating at a trial of a fellow refusenik, were soon followed around by the KGB.
B. KATZ: Natalya and Jessica (INAUDIBLE) to the Kremlin wall and with the placard (INAUDIBLE) baby girl, but of course, in a minute, the police comes, then we wait at the police station. The soldiers got tired of us and they said that they'll teach us a lesson so they created sort of crowd of angry mob that started beating us up and telling us, you know, hit them, kill them if you will.
COHEN: Just when the Katzes thought no one could save their daughter, hope arrived in the form of a mysterious phone call, inviting Boris Katz to a meeting with a guest. The caller wouldn't say who the guest was.
B. KATZ: I just went without asking who because you know in the Soviet Union not to ask too many questions over the phone.
COHEN: At that midnight meeting, on August 20th, 1978, to Boris Katz's shock, in walked Edward Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts.
Kennedy had heard about Jessica's plight and unbeknownst to the Katzes, earlier that day had asked Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to guarantee the Katzes safe exit to Boston and to freedom.
B. KATZ: First he had a meeting in Kremlin with the Soviet leaders. And that he specifically ask them to allow us to get out of the country for medical reasons. And he said that they said yes.
COHEN: At first, Boris and Natalya didn't believe Kennedy, but a few months later, with 13-month-old Jessica and her newborn baby sister in tow, the Katzes were allowed to board a plane to America.
B. KATZ: I think especially Senator Kennedy who made the last step and this is why we are here and it was he who I can say now save our lives.
COHEN: Finally Jessica could get the medical attention she needed. Kennedy found a job for Boris and over the years they kept in touch.
B. KATZ: When we have dinner ever since there is a chair at the dinner table for Senator Kennedy just because this is what he did. This is -- he saved us all. He saved my daughter and he changed our life.
JESSICA KATZ, SAVED BY SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY: He saved my life.
COHEN: Today, Jessica Katz, the littlest refusenik, is all grown up. 31 years old and recently married, she was inspired by how Kennedy helped her and she now works for New York City government helping the homeless.
J. KATZ: I think that the work that he's done has roughed off on people. It's not just that he saved me and now I'm alive. It's that now I have this very deep sense of public service that I just -- I wouldn't have had unless I had this thing personally happened to me.
COHEN (on camera): The senator didn't have to help you.
J. KATZ: He could have spent his whole life playing tennis on Cape Cod if he wanted to. He could have -- I mean he's like a rich guy from a fancy family and he could have made any decision if he wanted to. He could have been a senator and focus on something less controversial or more exciting than a sick baby. There's millions of sick babies in the world and he picked me. And I feel like I have to do something good with that.
COHEN (voice-over): Of course, Jessica doesn't remember anything from when she was just a baby but still, she mourns the passing of the man who did something he didn't have to do, who traveled halfway around the world and stuck his neck out for the littlest refusenik.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Boston.
CHETRY: It's amazing that you see that story and to see her grownup into a lovely young woman and say that she was instilled with a feeling of public service because of him.
ROBERTS: Yes, he really is -- you know, he helped whether it was personally or through his legislation over the years. He helped so many, many people and that's part of the legacy and the way that he'll be remembered going forward.