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CNN Live Event/Special

Continuing Coverage of the Kennedy Funeral Procession

Aired August 29, 2009 - 19:00   ET


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Back in the early 1980s, when I was a young organizer, working to make King's birthday a holiday. Coretta Scott King had recruited so many young people off college campuses. Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, many other senators had opposed making Dr. King's birthday a national holiday.

And yet, it was Senator Kennedy who encouraged us to go out there and get petitions to talk out fellow citizens and said that -- and he told us that one day we could indeed get the holiday passed. We did. We passed it in 1983 and it became officially in 1986. Ronald Reagan signed the bill.

That was part of Ted Kennedy's enduring legacy. He wasn't afraid to even champion tearing down the walls of apartheid in South Africa. And every time he went out to organize -- whether it was labor rights, women's rights, the rights of the disabled -- Ted Kennedy not only lended his name on legislation, but he came out to the rallies and he helped to build public support for those causes.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The hearse is about to go right in front of the South Lawn, the Ellipse in front of the White House. We're going to see if we can see the White House in the background as the hearse goes forward from this shot. There it is, there's the White House right behind in the center of your screen right there, and the Ellipse and the South Lawn of the White House.

You know, Washington, D.C., and I've lived there for while, is a relatively small town. But there's so much history and so much beauty within a few -- within a few short blocks and all of us who have spent a lot of time there, certainly appreciated -- John King, we're getting ready. We're getting closer and closer towards where you are at the Arlington National Cemetery. But we spent a lot of time covering Capitol Hill, a lot of times covering the White House. You never get tired of seeing the beauty.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, as you know well, Wolf, when we covered the White House together, it didn't matter how cranky you were on certain days, you walked down that driveway and you thought, I have an office in the White House. And I know that Candy and Dana had felt that way about the Capitol. Dana, both the White House and the Capitol, in her case, it is a majestic city. We've kind of taken it for granted sometimes.

There's a remarkable scene that was just on the air there. Members of the Kennedy family have the windows down and they are waving to this crowd. When I was in Boston, you know, for the wake and the service and the remembrance, they came out -- Vicki Kennedy led -- the senator's window led the family out to shake hands of the thousands of people who were waiting outside. Bobby Kennedy, Jr. shook hands for more than three hours. Carolyn Kennedy came out for a while and other family members as well.

And Vicki Kennedy spoke briefly. She took a couple of questions from us. I asked her, you know, what that meant to her and she said how much it had helped the family and given them solace and how deeply moving she found it -- and overwhelming is one thing she said during the drive in from Hyannis Port. And Bobby Kennedy said that that was the greatest legacy he thought to his uncle -- that you had such a diverse and remarkable mix of people, from the powerful, the elected and the appointed, to the blue-collar people he represented in Massachusetts and he tried to represent across the country, the little guy.

And as they waved to the crowd, I will tell you, and I'm sure it's the case here, in Boston, the people found that so touching, that Vicki Kennedy in her grief would come out and spend a few moments, that Bobby Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy and other members of the family would spend the time walking and asking them how they were and shaking their hands and talking to them for 30 seconds or two or three minutes and the people were very touched by that. This is a shared experience. The family has been touched by the outpouring of support, and I think, the people along the road, first in Massachusetts, and now here, are quite touched by the family's interaction with them at this, of course, very sad personal moment.

BLITZER: And no matter how many years you spent in Washington, no matter how cynical you might become, even as a journalist, you get very sentimental when you see what's going on, when you see a day like this. I'm sure, by tomorrow, a lot of people will forget today. But right now, you can't help Dana but be moved.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, you know, on a clear day in Washington -- I don't know if you have experienced this -- when you're on the Washington side of the Potomac, you can see that flame. You can see it. And so...

BLITZER: The flame at John F. Kennedy's grave.

BASH: Excuse me -- the flame across the river at John F. Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. And it's -- so, it's always there. And it's always a remainder. And now, the kid brother, the ninth child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, will be joining his two older brothers, that had spent so many years following up and carrying out what they started.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Candy. She's still on Capitol Hill.

I suspect, Candy, most of the folks who have already left where you are right now. They waited for hours and hours to get a glimpse. They got a glimpse and now, they have a memory.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And they took off. There are couple that are still sitting around -- kind of sitting on the steps and I guess reflect on the moment or they've been standing for so long I wouldn't blame them if they were just sitting down. But, yes, they were -- they were clearly here for not just, you know, a sort of moment in history but a span of history which certainly Ted Kennedy was.

I was thinking while waiting for the hearse to arrive, that the first time I ever covered Teddy Kennedy was 1980 and I was living in Iowa at the time and was in semi-retirement known as giving birth to babies and I got a call from the "A.P." and they said, "Hey, Teddy Kennedy is going to be in Chicago, could you fly up there and just cover him for a day for us? And I said sure. And I went up there and it was, first of all, Teddy Jr. who was with him.

Teddy Kennedy was late and his plane was circling because of weather, and Teddy Jr. was -- we were in one of those ethnic, either Polish or something, a lot of ethnic places to go in Chicago and they were having this festival -- and Teddy Kennedy who I guess was around 19, so he had already had his leg amputated because of the cancer up thee dancing with these dancers. And then give a speech for his dad, and it was pretty darn good. So, you could tell at 19 that he had a little bit of that in him, that we saw earlier today.

I also remember just another time, a St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, which anyone who's ever been in Chicago on St. Patrick's Day know, it's crazy. So they have a parade and Senator Kennedy was running and he went in the parade, and very -- always very tense to be out in public when he was running for president, just because of what had happened with his brothers.

And, you know, people were, you know, out in the bars and spilling on to streets and watching this parade and Teddy Kennedy, we kind of moved with him. That was when the Secret Service sort of let you kind of surround the candidate and we moved over to one side of the street and someone had stick out their hand and go, "Teddy, we loved you, we loved your brother and we just think you're great. You go get them, Teddy." And then, honestly, the next hand would be, "You know what? You killed that girl, go home."

So, there was in huge, huge gap that this man had to overcome. He obviously did not win the presidency, but that's -- we were talking sort of earlier about the redemptive nature of time, that over time, with the help of his wife and with the help of just, you know, growing old and wiser, this is a man who leaves behind a legacy that is much more than he was obviously than when he was young, and the last Kennedy boy sort of holding the baton.

And to see all of these people out here today who just wanted to be a part of his staff, who just wanted to be in on the issues, that he was involved in and to see all these people come to say goodbye to a man, with a huge amount of respect, just brought me back to that day in 1980. And just how far and how much history he has lived since the death and the -- well, the election and the subsequent assassination of his older brother.

So, I guess not just a moment in history that everyone's kind of experiencing. It's just this sort of span in history that was really reflected in Ted Kennedy's life. So, what a moment for these staffers, knowing that they were part of something. Even if you didn't believe what in Ted Kennedy believed in, obviously, these young people who joined his staff did, and they accomplish a lot of what he was looking to accomplish.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What was he like to cover as a reporter, Candy?

CROWLEY: Oh, he was great fun. I mean, he had a great sense of humor, I'm not sure if people knew that about him. He was pretty relaxed. I mean, very relaxed, I would say.

I mean, I -- he found it out hard to turn away from a question. If he didn't want to answer a question, he just wouldn't appear. But once he was there, you know that he would answer something.

He could be very funny. He had that, you know, big jovial laugh and I always found it sort of amazing, particularly early on, I mean, '80 was, let's see, Bobby died in '68. So, you know, more than a decade it passed. But I always suspected there would be this kind of sadness about him. And the fact of the matter was that he really was that happy warrior that they first called Hubert Humphrey and that they later used to describe Ted Kennedy.

I once remember asking the staffers, does he talk about his brothers? Does he talk about, you know, what that was like? And they said, rarely, rarely. When he talks about his brothers, it was always in a way of moving something forward. He loved them. He thinks of them and he thinks of them everybody.

But there is no -- they said, he is not one to step back and reflect on the past, he wants to move forward. And I think that is, you know, why the Ted Kennedy that you saw was always this kind of embracing life. I mean, here's somebody that saw, really, so much death. And it's not just Jack and Bobby, obviously Joseph, his oldest brother who was the heir apparent to what the father wanted which was a son in political power. He died in World War II.

So there was all this death and tragedy in this family and here was this -- open, friendly, happy guy that didn't seem to brood, at least in public. We -- you know, everyone does that in private, but I mean, who just was -- just fun to cover. And I am sure Dana and John can tell you this too. He just had a great sense of humor.

And you can get candidates -- trust me -- that have no sense of humor and that's not nearly as much fun. On both sides of the aisle, I might add.

BLITZER: I would -- I would add one other point though, that was apparent to me in all the times that we did formal sit down interviews and I recently spent some time reviewing a lot of those interviews over the past few weeks. He was always in pain and his staff always said, "We can't do this morning 10, 15, 20 minutes tops" because even sitting in that chair turned out to be painful after that plane crash, that injury where he broke his back and he never really recovered from that. And as much as he smiled and joked and laughed with a lot of us, and he had those two dogs around all the time, if he sat too long, Dana, you know, you spent some time with him, you know he was in pain.

BASH: Absolutely. And, you know, you could really sometimes hear him before you saw him coming around the corner from his office, because he had always that that chuckle that you see him in a lot of footage that we've been playing. But, you know, you asked Candy about covering him and she had obviously some great stories about how jovial he was. The other thing that, you know, we've been talking a lot about...

BLITZER: Hold on there one second.

BASH: Sure.

BLITZER: I just want to point out that the motorcade is now going -- beginning to go over the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge. You know, the water, you see there is the Potomac River itself. And just momentarily, they'll be making their way to Arlington National Cemetery, which is right across the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac.

BASH: I'll finish my story but I just want to point out that John was talking about. That's the great shot of what he was kind of happening in Boston too, the members of the Kennedy family waving to everybody.


COOPER: It's extraordinary when you see people in the crowd how -- I mean, each person has come to be along this road for a different reason, with a different thought in their mind, and each as a different reaction, some are taking pictures, some stand solemnly, putting their hands over their heart, others raising American flags, some are applauding, some are taking pictures. It's -- and any kind of large public spectacle like this, there are still thousands of individual reactions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Normally, it's so very sober, you've got the Kennedy family which is so political. They've got the windows down waving.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely in the genes.

BLITZER: Yes. Gloria you interviewed Senator Kennedy on many occasions as well. You covered him...


BLITZER: ... up on the Hill. Go ahead and give us a thought.

BORGER: One thing I would say about the senator's staff is that they were always kind of a cocoon around Senator Kennedy, because he could be often be his own worst enemy. He would want to tell you more than he should tell you and he would take too much time with you, and they tried to manage him and manage his schedule. And so, they did cocoon him to a great degree.

But when I think of Ted Kennedy, I think that he's his mother's son. His mother was the daughter of "Honey Fitz," the mayor -- Honey Fitzgerald, the mayor of Boston known as "Honey Fitz." And I was told by Caroline that the senator learned that politics can be fun from his mother. And I think he regarded politics as hard work, but also good fun. And I think he found them very much inseparable and that was kind of infectious in the Senate.

As Dana was saying, when he came around the corner, whether he was with his dogs or other senators, there was always a smile, a pat on the back, a wave, stopping to tourists, who were kind of gawk at him, "Oh, my God, I just ran into Ted Kennedy." But always an energy about him, this sense that he had to keep going because he had work that he needed to do.

BASH: And the way he would engage with reporters, I mean, you know, a lot of politicians like to use the media for, you know, their gain.

But the way he would it, even just at a crucial time in any given negotiations, I don't remember what the issue was. But I remember he was in a room with Republicans and Democrats, and it was at one of those crucial times. And I remember me asked him -- I asked him a question about something and he just sort of looked at me and he told me something that he knew was going to be newsworthy and he also knew was going to maybe change the dynamic inside that room.

That was not unusual for Ted Kennedy because he understood the process so well and he maneuvered the process so well and sometimes, we were part of that.

BLITZER: OK. You see the busses there, bringing the VIPs, the family members. These are the people that flew in from Boston, landed at Andrews Air Force Base. They stopped briefly at Capitol Hill as you saw live and now they're going to Arlington National Cemetery where the final step in this process will take place.

And that's going to be very soon. Anderson, you were pointing out it's going to be about a half an hour from now or so.

COOPER: I believe that at 7:45. I think (INAUDIBLE) at times. So...

BLITZER: They want to do it before it gets dark. They better get moving because it's -- they still got some stuff to do.

And, John King, for our viewers who are just tuning in perhaps, tell us what we're about to see at Arlington.

KING: Well, you're watching the motorcade now, as you noted, coming across the Memorial Bridge, the most majestic Lincoln Memorial in the background. A crowd of several hundred are waiting here on the outside. You will see it coming around that traffic circle, over this final roadway into the hilly ground of Arlington National Cemetery.

They will pull-up to the gravesite where President Kennedy is buried and where Senator Robert Kennedy is buried, and just steps away from those gravesites, there is a grave site that was excavated this morning at 7:00 a.m. There were white high branches (ph) up there as part of the display. Off to the sides, larger arrangements that are centered around white roses.

There will be a brief burial ceremony lead by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He is the archbishop emeritus of the Washington, D.C. Catholic archdiocese. And then you will have what we are told will be a brief, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes, and by-the-book Catholic burial service and a full military burial. You will see a military honor guard. You will see an American flag folded at the end brought over by the lead officer of that honor guard to Vicki Reggie Kennedy, the widow.

Much as you would see if a soldier who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were being buried today. You will hear gun fire, it's not a 21-begin salute, that is reserved for a head of state or presidential, but it will be the top, just the next tier of the military funeral because of the senator's longevity of service and his rank, if you will.

And it will be a full military burial, again led by Cardinal McCarrick, the family lined up, there are two rows of seats up there, you see the family and the VIPs in the motorcade and Vice President Biden arrived in his own motorcade, just a short time ago and he is waiting for them along with Cardinal McCarrick, wolf and Anderson, up at the gravesite. This is a treasure, Arlington National Cemetery, a place where more than 300,000 heroes are buried and the presidential gravesite, President Kennedy's gravesite is among the most popular spots for those who visit here.

Senator Kennedy himself came frequently to say hello to his brothers on the big days, the anniversaries and the birthdays, but also sometimes just to come and say hello. And he will soon be laid to rest steps away from his brother, the former president, and his brother, the former senator.

BLITZER: And we're told, John, that the last time that Senator Kennedy visited Arlington National Cemetery was in June of 2008, to mark the anniversary of his brother, Robert Kennedy's death. He was a frequent visitor there. But we're told that was the last time.

You know, if this goes into the dark, Anderson, it's not going to be the first time. I think we have some video of when Robert Kennedy was buried. The process was delayed as well. There you see some of the pictures from Robert Kennedy's burial at Arlington National Cemetery back in 1968. And it was supposed to be during the day, but the train arrival in Washington was delayed. And as a result, you saw the candles that were lit there and you see Senator Kennedy there leading the mourners as his brother, Robert Kennedy's burial after the assassination.

COOPER: I'm also reminded, just watching the motorcade, with Senator Kennedy coming and the lines of people on either side of the road, there's remarkable images of -- as Bobby Kennedy was coming by train and was being brought back to Washington by train and the long lines of people in towns, large and small, who had just sort of have gathered. You saw Boy Scouts with raised flags and veterans holding their hands over their hearts and giving a salute.

Those images you can actually see also at 8:00. We're replaying the HBO special, "Teddy in His Own Words." And you see a lot of that, a lot of these remarkable pictures from the '60s.

BLITZER: It's really an amazing documentary that HBO put together. And I'd just want to have to say, Anderson, what you said, if you haven't seen it, right at top of the hour, "Teddy in His Own Words," the HBO documentary. We're going to air the whole thing, starting at 8:00 p.m., in about 40 minutes from.

We assume that this burial will have been completed by then. If not, it will go until the end and then we'll play the HBO documentary. It's now getting closer and closer to Arlington National Cemetery. There's the hearse carrying Senator Kennedy's casket, with the U.S. flag draped around it. And once they get to the gravesite of President Kennedy, everyone will get out of the vehicles and begin this process, the actual service which will be led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. I'm actually struck by the applause, just regular people who come to the street are giving as this casket makes its way.

The difference, Ed Rollins, between this burial and his two brothers' burials, they were young men and they were tragically assassinated, and he lived until he was age 77, and died of natural causes.

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The first one was obviously a great shock. It was the beginning of the real age of television, people forget when Eisenhower was the president in the '50s, Jim Haggerty would decide what the networks could run, and the president could do Oval Office off-the-record interviews. Kennedy became, John Kennedy...

BLITZER: Let's interrupt for a second because we've just seen the hearse make its way now in Arlington National Cemetery.

John King, I believe it just went past you, is that right?

KING: Yes, it did. Well, the hearse has just pulled back and has pulled to a brief stop outside the cemetery. And I saw Senator Kennedy's widow, Vicki, looking out the window and waving. Jean Kennedy Smith, his sister, his older sister and now the sole survivor of nine children of Rose and Joseph Kennedy is in the second care behind the hearse.

And directly to me now at the stop were some of the other children, Carolina Kennedy and her children, Teddy Jr.'s children in the cars. They have come to a brief stop here -- I believe -- to allow the rest of the motorcade to come across so that they have an orderly procession. I believe the driver now coming back into his car, Wolf, and applause, as we have seen at other stops along the way, as the cars came -- first across the bridge and then up the narrow roadway leading here to the cemetery and after that brief pause, they are now moving again and being instructed by those directing the motorcade to pick up the pace a bit. They just wanted to regroup to get the cars across the bridge. And it is quiet here and it is still daylight. But it is getting more and more closer to dusk and it's actually a beautiful sky. There's a little bit of cloud cover. It has been blue all day. It is a bit more gray now, and what they are doing is they have pulled the motorcade to the side of the road so they can bring the busses with the VIPs up alongside first.

And we'll wait and see how this moves from here. But it appears that they're going to bring the VIPs in first and then the family up last. That is what's happening now. The busses carrying the VIPs have been brought up along the side and they're trying now -- it's a narrow path, there's an arch at the end, a grand entrance to that particular place. So they're trying to organize the cars for the motorcade before they bring them on in.

It's a very short drive once you are in. And you see the honor guard waiting inside the cemetery. A very short drive once they are in, up the hill, to the magnificent place where Senator Kennedy will take his final rest.

BLITZER: And those troops, you saw the honor guard, include a seven- member firing party from the Third Infantry Regiment. They will fire at the appropriate moment, and an army marching band Bugler will be there as well to play taps. And there's -- that the eternal flame that is there where John F. Kennedy is buried not very far away from Robert Kennedy and not far from that will be the burial site of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Vice President Joe Biden has arrived. He's there, John, as you pointed out, earlier. He's been basically there every step of the way, he was there last night. When he spoke out on Wednesday, he was holding back, choking back tears, given that close relationship that he had with Senator Kennedy, like Senator Chris Dodd and so many others who literally felt oh, so -- oh, so close to Senator Kennedy. This has been a difficult period for all of them.


KING: And, Wolf...

BLITZER: Go ahead, John.

KING: I was just going to say -- and Gloria can jump into this, I thought what was most interesting is that Senator Biden has been through so many policy battles, the Bork nomination, the fights in the judiciary committee, fights about war and peace, and yet, he wanted to talk about the man, not the senator -- the man -- the man who came to him when his wife was tragically killed in a car accident and he was thinking, I cannot go to the Senate, I need to stay with my surviving children and be their father.

Ted Kennedy coming to see him and saying, no, you must rally and you must serve for the precise reason you were thinking not to serve. You must serve to honor their legacy. And that is what I find most interesting and I think perhaps most fitting, these tributes from the senators who have served in these policy wars and political wars with Senator Kennedy, talking more about the man than the legislator, if that makes any sense.

BORGER: And, john, let me just add to that that we have spoken so much over these last couple of days about Ted Kennedy being the patriarch of the family, which is, of course, the case. But he was also the patriarch of the Senate. And in that sense, that is why people, like Joe Biden, feel so grateful to him, because to serve with Ted Kennedy was to be his friend in so many ways.

You couldn't be around Ted Kennedy and not get to know him and not have him reach out to you in one way or another. And in a way, this is a man who suffered so much in his own life, and the way he found comfort was in comforting others. And that's exactly what he did over and over and over again.

BASH: And I think what we have learned so much about over the past, you know two days, and with what the country has learned in watching is, John said, his colleagues talked more about the man than the legislator. Well, what we've learned is that he was the kind of legislator he was because of the kind of man he was.

And I think Chris Dodd said that really the best, it's just because people liked him, that despite the fact that he was highly partisan, a proud Democrat, nevertheless that, but because people liked him and because he understood how to talk to people, that he was able to get things done across the aisle.

BLITZER: That cross you see there of the burial site of Robert Kennedy, and we were told the cross that will be at the gravesite of Ted Kennedy will be very similar indeed to his brothers' cross.

COOPER: Yes, 2 1/2 foot white cross will be a marble grave marker and the marker will say Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932 to 2009, which is, as you said, very similar to his brothers.

BLITZER: Very simple, yet dignified and certainly appropriate. The honor guard, they will participate in what is expected to be a rather brief 15, 20-minute service. And Theodore -- Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. will perform the burial service.

Normally, they don't do burial services at Arlington on Saturdays. The last time they did it was right after 9/11. But they've made an exception for Senator Kennedy today and that's why we are here where we are.

COOPER: And the honors that the senator is being accorded are consistent with his rank in the army, his honor guard is the seven- member firing party which is from the Third Infantry Regiment and also the marching band there, Bugler. But it really has less to do with him being a senator and more of his rank in the army.

BLITZER: And he served during the Korean War. He was a private after he dropped out of Harvard. He got caught cheating on a Spanish test.



BLITZER: He got kicked out of Harvard.

COOPER: Dropped out his (INAUDIBLE)


BLITZER: And eventually, he enlisted in the United States Army and served not in Korea, served in Europe at NATO headquarters before coming back finishing college and then going to law school at the University of Virginia.

COOPER: He did finally graduate from Harvard.

BLITZER: Eventually -- eventually he did, but it was amazing. But he finally did.

And he -- as James Carville pointed out earlier, you know, he showed us all that he was a man of flaws, but he never gave up. He always came back. He always fought as his son Teddy Jr. said in his beautiful eulogy today, he said, "You're going to climb that mountain and climb that hill, we're just going to keep on working and working and working until it's done." And that's what Ted Kennedy certainly did, Roland.

You were moved by those words by his son today, weren't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, because you start thinking about moments like this, I always go back to what is the takeaway, what can the average person who did not know Senator Ted Kennedy, what can they learn from it. And that's what really jumped out. When you talk about those flaws -- and I think about Donnie McClurkin song, the gospel -- great gospel singer, "We Fall Down," the lyric, "We fall down but you get back up again."

So, no matter how many times you fall down, the whole point is to get back up again and to get back up again and to keep moving forward. And so, that is the lesson because so many people, especially as James said earlier, that we get so caught up in when someone is involved in a scandal, we put them out to pasture, we don't want to hear from them, we don't want to talk to them. You sort of put a scarlet letter on them. But you know the reality that they could do something else beyond that particular moment.

So, we must appreciate that and realize that as is always the case.

COOPER: We join the service casket team, getting ready to receive the casket.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The statistics, the numbers are impressive at Arlington. There are more than 330,000 grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery. People have been buried here from every major U.S. conflict. They do about 27 to 30 burials a day during the week. That's a regular number.

Last year, they buried 6,904 people. The cemetery gets four million visitors a year. President Kennedy's gravesite is one of the most visited sites in the nation's capital. They have enough room for burials if this current pace about 7,000 year, through the year 2060. And to qualify for burial at Arlington, you must have been served in the United States military active duty, or guard or reserves.

COOPER: And also, John King, it's such a remarkable place to visit, just the mood of the place, it is truly - I mean it's unlike any other place in Washington. It's truly, it's obviously hallowed ground. It's incredibly somber and dignified and it's a stunningly beautiful place.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And all the more so, Anderson in recent years because of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I came out here a couple of years ago to spend some time with the military men, the honor guard that are here for the day to day military funerals. And they cherish that duty. It's hard duty. It's very tough duty to see the families in such grief, but they cherish it because they are honoring one of their own to send them off.

And when you walk into the special section, set aside for those who have served from Iraq and Afghanistan, you will find often young spouses and young children, just sitting, crying by the grave stones and reading books by the grave stones and dropping flowers, and always a poignant, moving remarkable piece of our history, all the more so in recent years because and we can - at another time debate politics of war but here is where you see the prices of war and the personal toll of war.

And it is a remarkable place in our history. That flame is one of its most poignant spots, the eternal flame at President Kennedy's grave. And on this extraordinary day, Senator Kennedy and you see the honor guard waiting for him, will join his brothers and it is somewhat fitting the sky has turned gray and it is just - you see now the family walking up as well, arriving at the site. It is just a moment to watch.

BLITZER: They're getting off the busses. They're getting out of the vehicles and they're heading towards the site of President Kennedy's grave where this service, this burial service will begin. And as we pointed out, Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington will perform the service, which is totally appropriate given his Catholic faith, Senator Kennedy's Catholic faith and this is the way he wanted it and this is the way it will be. Gloria, you wanted to make a point?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have President Kennedy here, Jackie Kennedy also there, very close to Senator Kennedy. Senator Kennedy gave away Caroline at her wedding. He used to talk about the shamrocks that were on Caroline's wedding dress that he knew that his brother the president would really have appreciated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also probably the most difficult (INAUDIBLE) and this is when you let that person go. If you think about being in Boston (INAUDIBLE) the motorcade to the Capitol. So for any family member, this is when your - this is your last goodbye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going back to the point when start talking earlier about JFK. It was the time of national mourning. It was everybody in America was glued to a television set. They didn't have cable in those days. This is a celebration of a life, and I think to a certain extent it's a big difference. Even the most partisan Republican basically today recognized what this man has done for his country and I think his family have to be very proud today.

COOPER: The power of that eternal flame, all the more so is as the light of day dwindles and the sun is setting in about 10 minutes in Washington.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile is watching all of this and has touched as a close friend of the Kennedy family for many years, and someone who worked closely professionally with them as well. Donna, it's a fitting tribute to this U.S. lawmaker.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It really is, Wolf, and as Roland was saying, just a few minuets ago, this is perhaps the toughest part of any celebration when you say your final goodbyes and when you know that tomorrow you will not see the face of someone you love smiling, but this is also the beginning of a new era. Ted Kennedy ushered in a season of hope, a season of change that throughout his life he fought the great fights of our times.

He was a man who learned from tragedy. Tragedy became his greatest teacher and throughout his entire life, he tried to do what was right. Even if he made mistakes. So this is a moment where there's another great scripture that I know he loved and it comes from the book of Galatians. "Do not grow weary in doing good. In due season, you will reap the harvest if you don't give up." That was also a great part of Senator Kennedy's life to keep fighting the good fight.

COOPER: The cross that will mark the grave of Senator Kennedy which is identical to the one on his brothers' graves. Those are the only two crosses in Arlington Cemetery, all the others are identical.

BLITZER: We're getting some - a pooled report from some of the journalists who have been there on the scene. Let me read to you a little bit of what they're telling us. The grave was excavated at 7:00 a.m. today and is currently coffered with as Astroturf. But I think we have some pictures of that Astroturf where the grave was excavated earlier today. We'll show those to you shortly.

You'll see some of the VIPs, some family members, Ken Feinberg to the left of your screen, who used to work for Senator Kennedy. He was one of those who helped distribute the 9/11 compensation funds to the family members of the victims of 9/11, a well known Washington attorney.

A small platform with two rows of chairs positioned next to the gravesite. The front of the platform is lined with flowers. Workers broke an irrigation line while they were digging the hole but they're repaired it since and as we pointed out, the markers will be identical to that of the gravesite of R.F.K., of Bobby Kennedy. A glossy white oak cross at the head of the grave and a white marble foot marker that will read simple Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932-2009.

COOPER: We also saw the honor guard there, the seven- member team. They all give a three volley salute. It's not a 21-gun salute. The 21-gun salute is only reserved for presidents.

BLITZER: The Governor of California and Maria Shriver, you see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver who have gathered there. They have been participating in all of these events leading up to this final phase of the burial service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also think that this is the reality today. This family also lost Senator Kennedy's sister just two weeks ago, and so -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maria Shriver's mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's been more difficult two larger than life figures in just a short period of time.

BLITZER: One of the things we're also learning, Cardinal McCarrick who will officiate at the service, we're told he enlisted Senator Kennedy and the House GOP leader John Boehner to help raise money for D.C. Catholic schools. The two also saw each other socially from time to time. That according to long-time Kennedy, former Kennedy spokesman, Jim Manly. This is the area of the gravesite. You see that Astroturf on top of the gravesite where Senator Kennedy's casket will eventually lie and then it will go down into that site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually honored to be asked by Senator Kennedy a couple of years ago to emcee the charity event that he and John Boehner did for the D.C. Catholic schools and it was obviously a fabulous experience for me but also a window into not only bipartisanship that we have been talking about but you know, one of many services that Senator Kennedy did out of the Senate, separate from the Senate because he believed in obviously education, but also in Catholic education.

BLITZER: That cross is the gravesite of Robert Kennedy, not far away from his brother John F. Kennedy. I also want to point out that once the services begins, we're going to stop talking and you're going to be able to watch and listen as we do. The three volleys that you'll hear involving the seven rifle men, this is a traditional military funeral ritual, but it shouldn't be confused with a 21-gun salute which is reserved for presidents and presidents only.

The casket will be carried by eight service members of all service branches plus the commanding officer who belonged to once called the Joint Casket Team and the volleys will be fired by the members of U.S. Army because Senator Kennedy himself served two years in the Army after which he was expelled, as we pointed out, from Harvard. So it's a pretty elaborate service, but totally fitting for this senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every military person that's buried gets this funeral. It's very touching, having seen many of these at Arlington. When those guns go off and those taps go off, there's very seldom a dry eye.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a sad service. And we'll let it go without interruption here on CNN. Among those who will be there, you saw vice president Joe Biden, you saw Governor Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, other family members, Vicki Kennedy, the widow, will be there, of course, Ted Kennedy Junior, Kara Kennedy, and Patrick Kennedy, the three children of Senator Kennedy and then the two children of Vicki Kennedy, Curran Raclin and Caroline Raclin and the senator's surviving older sister, Jean Kennedy-Smith. All of them will be in the front row and they'll be seated there as this service goes on.

And I want to remind our viewers also that as soon as the service is over, the amazing HBO documentary, "Teddy in his own words" will air in full. If you haven't seen it, you should. If you have seen it, you might want to see it again. It's the story of Teddy Kennedy and he tells it himself. There's some archival video, a lot of archival video I should say, but it really tells his whole life story. It's really so well done. I have seen it twice, Anderson, and I'm ready to see it the third time.

COOPER: The video images many of them I have never seen before. Especially after Kennedy broke - I guess broke his back in a plane crash and was literally campaigning from his hospital bed. Just extraordinary - press conferences, commercial with a camera right over his head.

BLITZER: I have never seen anything like it.

Ed Rollins, you have done a lot of political commercials, have you ever seen a candidate lying in bed looking straight up and saying vote for me?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: None like that but it certainly worked very well. Boston and Massachusetts may have had a lot to do with it.

BLITZER: That was after his plane crash and he was recuperating and he spent six months in that hospital bed. He never fully recuperated. As I said, he was in pain for the rest of his life. It was not easy for him to walk. There you see the vice president and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. They're there already. They're participating in this. They were very, very close, Gloria. The vice president and Senator Kennedy.

BORGER: They were. They were seat mates in the Senate for way, I would say two and a half decades or three decades. I'm not quite sure how long they were seat mates for. And that's you know, that's pretty, that can be tough work when you're sitting next to Joe Biden for two decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to say -

BORGER: But they became great friends, great political allies, great political confidantes. I'm sure that candidate Obama would have talked to Senator Ted Kennedy when he was considering his vice presidential choices, when Joe Biden's name came up and I'm sure that was an issue that was discussed with Senator Kennedy and as Senator Biden said last night, he said he owes his entire Senate career, his entire career to Ted Kennedy who convinced him to stay.

BLITZER: Let's not forget that Caroline Kennedy was on that committee that helped collect the vice presidential running mate for then Senator Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's interesting the way that Senator Kennedy reached out to Biden when he came to the Senate was the exact same thing that Biden did to then Senator Barack Obama when he came to the Senate. His comments on Wednesday at the Department of Energy were amazing. You talked about heartfelt. He broke up several times, giving that speech and he made it clear this is no time to give a speech talking about our new energy plan, but just great remembrances of Senator Kennedy on Wednesday.

BLITZER: The motorcade making its way now to the gravesite. We're told also in this press pool report that we've just received that the actual service and Roland, you can help me with this, because you know a lot about this, is actually called the Right of Committal and the Prayer of Commendation. The program is printed on marble parchment with black ink. The flowers lining the stage are white hydrasia and the larger arrangements of either of the platform include white roses. The grave site is located between two maple trees. This will be a traditional Catholic burial.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's a formal process for everything. Exactly I remember being an alter boy having to carry that huge book around, nearly everything at the funeral was scripted in terms of what prayers to choose from, what comes next and that's the exact same thing with burial and the priest will always make sure it never get out of line in terms of making sure that things were proper in terms of whether it's sprinkling of the holy water, whether it's all the (INAUDIBLE) and everything. And even and I have even seen but my wife lead Southern Baptist funerals and again, in terms of the process make sure that everything is proper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keeping you in line, there's a big rule book.

COOPER: Let's listen in to the sounds and see what we can hear as Senator Kennedy's casket is brought to the gravesite.

BLITZER: We saw Cardinal McCarrick there speaking with vice president Joe Biden. Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Washington D.C. area. He will officiate the ceremony.

For those people who know Cardinal McCarrick, he's a really special kind of priest. I must say two years ago I was honored to receive an honorary degree at the Catholic University of America. He was there together with Father David McConnell, the president of the Catholic University. It was a really memorable moment for me and I got to know Cardinal McCarrick.

I got to know him over the years and he was - he is the kind spiritual leader that just relates and it doesn't make any difference what religion you are, he just relates with people. And that will come through, Anderson, I am sure, once we see this service begin. Because Cardinal McCarrick has that unique ability to relate. And I know how close he was with Senator Kennedy over the years and it's a relationship that was forged over many decades and I'm sure that passion, that love he had for Senator Kennedy will be evident to everyone who will watch.

COOPER: There you see the Joint Service Casket Team waiting to take the casket of Senator Kennedy out of the hearse. We saw a lot of vehicles behind it and it looked like some family members, some of the entourage are still arriving. There's Patrick Kennedy, who spoke at the funeral earlier this morning, has been accompanying the body on the journey back to Washington.

BLITZER: Three kids, Patrick Kennedy, Kara Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy Jr., we heard that remarkable, remarkable 13-minute address he gave at the church earlier today and something that a lot of us will remember how spoke so lovingly and movingly on his dad who is now about to be laid to rest.

BLITZER: Let's bring this full circle. Three brothers, three burial services at Arlington National Cemetery.

We have some archival video that we're going to show our viewers beginning in 1963, the burial there of President Kennedy. We see Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow, and Senator Ted Kennedy all participating. This courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Then we fast forward to 1968 at Arlington National Cemetery once again. This is the funeral of then Senator Robert F. Kennedy and once again, because it was running late, they had to do it in the evening and Senator Kennedy was, of course, there, as well. And now.

COOPER: And now in the dwindling light of day, the family of Senator Kennedy has gathered, the final brother being laid to rest.

BLITZER: And that's the grave site of Senator Kennedy. You can see the Astroturf atop the excavated site that was dug earlier this morning. Three brothers, three funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.


CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: It's a certain fittingness in having a burial at the dying of the day because we know that the sun will come back again tomorrow. And as we think of Teddy, we know that his new life begins, and as we look at this great family, we're sure that new life is already beginning and that new great things are happening.

Mr. Vice President, Vicki, members of the family, it is for all of us a very special time in our own lives, in your life and the life of our country. And so we begin in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Dear friends in Christ, in the name of Jesus and his church, we gather together to pray for Edward Moore Kennedy that God may bring him to everlasting peace and rest. We share the pain of loss, but the promise of eternal life gives us hope. And therefore, we comfort one another with these words - Kara.

KARA KENNEDY, SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: A reading from the Letter of Psalms to the Philippians. Our citizenship is in heaven. (INAUDIBLE) you will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power and then ables him also to bring all things to (INAUDIBLE) himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks be to God.