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Remember Senator Edward Kennedy; President Obama Remembers Senator Kennedy; Interview With Former Senator Birch Bayh

Aired August 26, 2009 - 15:59   ET



Happening now, flowers and mourning for a Senate powerhouse, a Democratic icon, an American legend. We're covering the life and death of Edward M. Kennedy with friends and journalists who knew him well.

This hour, the latest on funeral plans and reaction here in Washington and around the world.

Plus, the Kennedy legacy. We'll let one of the most influential voices in recent political history speak for himself. This is the place, right here, to hear the senator in his own words over as many years of hope and hardship, victory and defeat.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The work begins a new. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.



BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Even his harshest critics knew Senator Kennedy was a force to reckon with, and few, if any, would dispute that his death at the age of 77 leaves a big void in the political arena.

Over the next three hours, we'll bring you fresh and smart perspective on his life, his legacy, and his final battle against brain cancer. Most of all, we want to let you hear from Senator Kennedy himself, to remember his words and his ideals.

Listen now to some of his famous 1980 speech after his failed Democratic primary challenge against then-President Jimmy Carter.


KENNEDY: And some day, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith. May it be said of our party in 1980 that we found our faith again. And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now, "I am a part of all that I have met."

Too much is taken, much survives. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.



BLITZER: That was back in 1980.

Twenty-eight years later, Senator Kennedy spoke at the Democratic National Convention for the last time, and his lines were familiar.


KENNEDY: There is a new wave of change all around us. And if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination. Not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans so, with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.



BLITZER: Our correspondents are standing by with the latest on the tributes to Senator Kennedy and the funeral plans.

Let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's over at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

What are you hearing, Deb? What's the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we're hearing is we're told by a Kennedy insider that the family is taking turns keeping a vigil over Ted Kennedy, that he is still inside the home. We saw members of the funeral parlor coming back and forth virtually all day. They're keeping vigil so that they can spend time with him in private. And also, so he won't be alone, we're told. Remember, Ted Kennedy's surrogate father to some 29 cousins all together.

Now, there has also been some activity around schooner, the Mya, which is just in Hyannis Port. And I don't know whether you can see just over my shoulder. There's a red ship that's out there.

That does not usually come into Hyannis Port, but we are told there were a couple of people on Ted Kennedy's boat earlier today. That lightship there leading the speculation that perhaps it may be used as part of the memorial.

Now, sources do tell CNN that Ted Kennedy will lie in repose in Boston at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum beginning tomorrow through Friday. There will be a service at 7:00 on Friday night, a memorial service that will be open. And then Saturday, a private mass at a Boston church. He will then be brought to Arlington National Cemetery that afternoon, Saturday afternoon at about 5:00, where he will be buried.

Now, we have seen a number of members of the Kennedy family. Among them, his son, Patrick Kennedy, who said, really, his father's illness brought the family closer together simply by the fact that they knew his time was so limited. But he really celebrated his father's life, saying he was knighted, he had a chance to throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox game at opening day. And so, there were many things, many accolades that came.

Now, according to a reverend who was with Ted Kennedy in the hours leading up to his death, we are told that, in fact, the whole family was around him, they were praying for him, and that he really wasn't sick until late yesterday afternoon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Deb.

Deborah Feyerick in Hyannis Port at the Kennedy compound.

We'll of course have extensive coverage of all of these events.

President Obama today remembered Ted Kennedy as a colleague, a counselor, and a good friend. He took time out from his vacation at Martha's Vineyard, not very far away, to remember the man whose early endorsement meant so much to his election victory.

Listen to the president.


BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party. And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle.

His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth, and good cheer. He could passionately battle others, and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines. And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end, and extraordinary good that he did lives on.


BLITZER: Let's go right to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's covering the president's vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

They didn't know each other for a long time, but they did develop a close relationship, especially after Senator Kennedy endorsed him.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, it started when a young Barack Obama first went to the Senate and Senator Ted Kennedy took him under his wings to show him the ropes there on Capitol Hill. And then it really deepened, that relationship, when Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed him for president and then later, according to senior administration officials, throughout his presidency offered guidance on a host of issues, including health care reform.

The president today saying that he was heartbroken by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. And in addition to the remarks that the president made here on Martha's Vineyard, the White House rolled out a slide show on the White House Web site. You can see some of the pictures there showing behind-the-scenes, intimate pictures of Senator Kennedy with the president and others in the Oval Office, out in the Rose Garden, at other events with other officials, as well.

I mean, this is a senator who didn't necessarily go along with the politics of everyone in this country, but today he's being remembered as a senator who fought hard for what he believed in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, the president, when did he actually find out about Senator Kennedy's death?

LOTHIAN: Well, Wolf, we are told by a senior administration official that he was told around 2:00 this morning. Marvin Nicholson, who's one of his golf partners and also an aide, woke him up and delivered the news. And then about 25 minutes later, he placed a call to Mrs. Kennedy.

Again, this is a very difficult day for Mr. Obama. But he said, you know, this was something that was expected, a day that was expected, but he definitely dreaded it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan. We're going to get back to you.

Dan Lothian on Martha's Vineyard.

Another heartfelt tribute today to the Ted Kennedy. This one from his long-time colleague and good friend in the Senate, the vice president, Joe Biden.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his -- so many of his foes embrace him? Because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Vice President Biden closed by paraphrasing Shakespeare, saying of Kennedy, "I don't think we shall ever see his like again."

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the death of Ted Kennedy mashing the end of an era in this country. The senator from Massachusetts, the last of the four Kennedy brothers to die, all of them serving their nation.

Joe, Jr. died as a World War II pilot. John was a congressman, senator, president, before he was assassinated. Bobby, a U.S. attorney general, senator from New York, and a presidential candidate at the time of his assassination.

Ted Kennedy was the youngest of all of the nine Kennedy children. He's the only brother to live past the age of 50. And many believe that as the survivor, he is the one who will leave the most significant impact on the history of the country.

Kennedy served 46 years in the United States Senate. He was a staunch liberal, but he was known for being able to reach across the aisle and do deals with the opposition. He was a champion for issues like civil rights and health care and education and voting rights and labor and kids and on and on and on.

The Kennedy family has been an endless source of fascination for the American people for more than 50 years. To many, the Kennedys were considered royalty by the people in the United States. The family offered glamour, wealth, the Camelot mystique, hope, and idealism.

But along with high political ambition and success of the Kennedy family came great low points, tragedies, and disappointments -- the untimely deaths, the two assassinations; Ted Kennedy's nearly fatal plane crash; along with the infamous incident of Chappaquiddick that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne; John, Jr.'s fatal plane crash; and throughout the years numerous substance abuse and marital problems.

So, here's the question: Why did America remain fascinated with the Kennedy brothers for more than 50 years?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

It truly is, Wolf, a story unlike any other in American politics.

BLITZER: Yes. And you're absolutely right, it's the end of an era with his passing.

CAFFERTY: Yes. None of the ensuing generation has matched those brothers for impact, for popularity, for charisma, for any of those things that we remember John and Bobby and Ted for. BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. Let's not forget Joe, the oldest brother, who was a hero during World War II. He got killed in a plane crash, a dangerous bombing mission over Europe.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I mentioned that, but we didn't get a chance to know him like we got to know the others.

BLITZER: A good question, Jack. We'll get back to you.

Senator Kennedy's life almost ended decades before this. As Jack mentioned, he was seriously hurt in a plane crash. His friend and former Senate colleague Birch Bayh, he's here to talk about the accident they survived together.

Plus, unique insight into Senator Kennedy's relationship with Jackie Kennedy. It's all written down in a letter from the former first lady.

And they were great friends, indeed, even if they were an odd pair politically. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has plenty of stories to tell us about Ted Kennedy. He's even written a song about him.


BLITZER: In 1964, Senator Ted Kennedy was seriously injured in Massachusetts plane crash, but that didn't stop him from campaigning for re-election that year from his hospital bed.


ANNOUNCER: During this election year of 1964, Senator Kennedy cannot visit us in our factories, in our shopping centers, or in our homes. But here from his hospital room, Senator Kennedy speaks to you now.

KENNEDY: Well, I'm coming along now. The doctors estimate that I'll be out of the hospital Christmastime. I'm planning on Thanksgiving. I haven't mentioned that to them yet, but I plan to in the next few days.

Two years ago, the citizens of Massachusetts sent me to the United States Senate. I believe that this has been an historic Congress for many reasons.

First of all, we have seen the passage of a test ban treaty, the most far-reaching efforts that we have ever pursued in seeking a just and a lasting peace; the passage of a civil rights bill to provide equality of opportunity for all Americans in all parts of our country; the tax cut and, yet, the efforts which have been made to control government spending. So much has been done, but so much remains to be done.

We must continue this effort to build a better Massachusetts, a stronger America, a world at peace. And the Senate will play an important role in this effort. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Also surviving that plane crash was his friend and colleague who's joining us now, the former Democratic senator, Birch Bayh of Indiana, the father of Evan Bayh, the current Democratic senator from Indiana.

Senator Bayh, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I know you were very close with Senator Kennedy, so our deepest condolences to you. But tell us what happened in that plane crash, because you went back in there and saved his life, really, by pulling him out after the pilot was killed and another aide was killed in that crash.

BAYH: I thought at first we were all dead just instantaneously when we struck, and then I lost consciousness. And when I recovered, my wife was very anxious to get out of the plane, and so was I.

We did. I went around and I yelled for Ted. No response.

Went around and saw that the two people, the pilot and Eddie Moss, Ted's administrative assistant, was on the way out (ph), died on the way to the hospital. Smelled the fumes, and I thought, well, I've got to make another effort to see if Ted is alive. I thought he was dead.

BLITZER: He was unconscious.

BAYH: Yes. When I yelled at him, he mumbled. So, I was able to lug him out of there, lay him down in the weeds, and go for help.

BLITZER: And that really saved his life.

BAYH: Well, at least three of us survived and two of us didn't, and I'm sorry for the other two. And Ted spent the rest of his life, I think, in pain. You couldn't tell it by the way he acted.

BLITZER: But you could always tell when he was walking. It was even hard for him to walk.

BAYH: Yes, it was. He had this brace on him.

I remember the first time when he had us up to Hyannis Port to do a little swimming with him, he had a brace back on. And it didn't deter him at all. He didn't back away.

You stop to think about it him, you look at the Ted Kennedy I first met, we were elected on the same day, sworn in on the same day. And when your name is "Kennedy," and you've got a Kennedy who's president and another one who's attorney general, you wonder just what kind of a fellow this is.

BLITZER: Did he think that when he was lying in bed for six months recovering from that plane crash, that maybe it was over politically for him?

BAYH: We never even talked about that. Never talked about that. We talked about him getting well. It was clear he was going to run again.

BLITZER: You went to visit him several times.

BAYH: Yes. I assumed that if he was going to run again, he would be victorious. But here, again, when he came to the Senate, he didn't expect any airs -- he didn't have any airs. He didn't expect any favors. He was one of the troops. He had to learn his way, and he did. He ingratiated himself to the other senators, as all of us had to do as freshmen clear down at the end of that seniority list.

BLITZER: What will you remember most about Ted Kennedy?

BAYH: Well, you stop to think about what a man is made out of. You might say my friend Ted was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He could live on the Riviera the rest of his life. His brother, his attorney general brother, and president, had given -- the family had contributed to the country.

He could have had a life of ease, but he didn't. He spent his life helping for people who couldn't help themselves, whether they were the poor, the afflicted children that needed education, people who needed health care. Ted Kennedy was a champion for people who needed a champion.

BLITZER: Until his dying day, he wanted to see that health care reform pass. He didn't live to see it, but I know that was his dream come true if it were to happen.

Senator Bayh, thanks very much for coming in.

BAYH: I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but I appreciate the interest.

BLITZER: Senator Birch Bayh, appreciate it very much.

Ted Kennedy has been called the most influential senator in history because of his ability to work with Democrats and Republicans, the unique way he worked both sides of the political aisle. We'll talk about that. That's coming up.

Plus, how Senator Kennedy used his considerable power to help shape the Supreme Court.

Our special coverage of the death of Edward M. Kennedy continues in a moment.


BLITZER: We're going to be having a lot more coverage of the death of Senator Kennedy, including some special moments from interviews I conducted with him over these many, many years.

Stick around. You're going to want to hear from Senator Kennedy himself.



BLITZER: A live picture of Capitol Hill. You see the American flag flying at half-staff. President Obama ordered that all flags at federal buildings be lowered to half-staff until August 30th in honor of Senator Kennedy.

Although he was known as the Senate's liberal lion, Senator Kennedy also had a reputation for being able to work across the political aisle with Republicans on many key issues. In a May 2001 interview with me, I asked the senator about joining forces with then- President George W. Bush on the issue of education.


BLITZER: It's amazing. A lot of people think it's amazing that you and President Bush have formed this almost odd couple alliance on education.

Has his charm offensive worked with you?

KENNEDY: Well, I have my differences with the president on some of the health care issues, a Patients' Bill of Rights, prescription drugs, also environmental issue, and the overall budget. But on the areas of education, we have been able to find some important common ground. And with a number of other of our colleagues in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, I think we've got a very good bill, which I'm glad to support.

It gets us most of the way but not the whole way. It really -- to give it life, it needs the additional resources. We're only reaching a third of the children that need this kind of help, and I think we can afford to make sure that we're interested and committed to leave No Child Behind. We cannot do it on the cheap. We can't nickel-and-dime education. It's too important. And we ought to provide the additional resources necessary to make sure no child is left behind.


BLITZER: Here to reflect on Senator Ted Kennedy in our "Strategy Session," joining us right now, Paul Begala, our political contributor and Democratic strategist, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and our senior political analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Dana, how important was it for Senator Kennedy to work with Republicans, including the then Republican president of the United States, to get his legislative agenda accomplished?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly important. I mean, that was what it was all about. And he actually was very open about the fact that -- that it was because he was able to -- to deal with Republicans, because he was interested in learning what they -- what their pressure points were, that he was able to get so many of the successes done over the past 47 years that he was in the Senate.

But, you know, it's interesting. It wasn't just in the Senate. I actually had the honor a couple of years ago of being invited by Senator Kennedy to emcee an event that he did annually with the leader Republican in the House, John Boehner.

And it was just for charity for Catholic schools. And this is something that he did, you know, again, almost every year. And it wasn't to -- to push forward legislation. It wasn't something to do politically, but it was something that was near and dear to his heart. He reached across the aisle for that, too.

BLITZER: Take a look at that picture, Paul, behind you. You see the president -- the then president of the United States and Senator Kennedy. They worked to get that education legislation, No Child Left Behind, enacted.

But do you think, if Senator Kennedy, over these past few months, had really been healthy and -- and assertive in the Senate, as he used to be, there would be a different health care bill out there right now, and that it would have a better chance of getting passed into law?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. The Senate was a better place with Teddy Kennedy in it. The world was better place with Teddy Kennedy in it.

I will say, even in his absence, his remarkable staff and then his best friend in the Senate, Chris Dodd, then stepped in to take over that bill. His committee produced a bill that cost only $600 billion, not the $1.2 billion -- the $1.2 trillion. So, it costs half of what others...


BLITZER: What the House version did.

BEGALA: What the House version did. It cost half. And it still covered 97 percent of all Americans. It's actually a terrific piece of legislation.

I also think he probably could have inspired greater Democratic unity, and -- and not only helped persuade some of those Republicans he worked with, even some of the most conservative Republicans, who often -- or not often -- occasionally side with him.

But he could have, I think, done a great service to his party in unifying Democrats behind this. And that's what the Democrats -- the Democrats could pass this if they could find unity. And maybe now, in the spirit of Senator Kennedy, they will find that unity that he always preached.

BLITZER: Gloria, back in 2000, when you were working for CBS News, you had a special moment with Senator Kennedy.

I want to play this little clip from CBS.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS (singing): Sweet Rosie O'Grady my dear little Rose, she's my special lady, most everyone knows. And when we are married, how happy we will be. I love Sweet Rosie O'Grady, and Rosie O'Grady loves me.



BLITZER: How did you get him to sing to you?

BORGER: I asked him.


BORGER: It was a special moment. That was in Hyannis. That's in the living room of the house there. That's the piano that his mother always played to him on.

And -- and Ted Kennedy, among other things, including being a great legislator, loved to sing. His wife, Vicki, got him for his birthday a couple years ago singing lessons. He's also a great watercolor artist.

And, so, this is a part of Ted Kennedy a lot of people don't see. But it -- it shows the joy that he -- that he took in life. I mean, here was a man who had so many tragedies in his life, and, you know, walked into a room and sang.

BASH: You know, and he actually used to do that a lot on Capitol Hill, believe it or not.

And you -- I'm sure you have attended some of the -- the Christmas parties that he...


BASH: ... and he and Vicki had, annual Christmas parties. And they actually used to dress up in costume, and they both used to sing. And that was sort of a treat for -- for everybody up there. And they invited kids, families, everybody. But that voice, that singing was something that he -- he definitely...

BORGER: He used to sing to try and get people to support him in legislation, because he...



BORGER: ... he understood the power of personal relationships. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're going to speak to one of his best friends in the Senate, Senator Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican, who also likes...

BORGER: Who also sings.


BLITZER: ... to sing. So, maybe we will get him...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... to sing a little bit today as well.

Senator Kennedy's influence certainly reaches all the way across Washington and the nation, including the Supreme Court. We're going to take a closer look at his impact on who is and is not serving on the nation's highest court.

And his was a life marked with major triumphs and considerable tragedy -- how Senator Kennedy forged ahead, despite incredibly serious obstacles.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Kennedy's proudest moments. We have a crowd actually of people on site here. This is a pretty...



BLITZER: The governor of Massachusetts now speaking out within the past few moments, saying he will support legislation in Massachusetts that will allow him to name an interim replacement to Senator Kennedy.

Listen to Deval Patrick.


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I think Massachusetts ought to have two voices in the Senate being a part of -- of some of the key debates of our time, health care, climate change, some of the other big proposals before the Congress right now.

QUESTION: Governor, you -- you would sign that, obviously, if that (OFF-MIKE)

PATRICK: If it comes to my desk, I will sign it, yes.


BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about that. Paul, as you know, the Democrats in Massachusetts themselves passed legislation a few years ago that only allowed to special election within five months to name a successor to a senator. But now they want to change the rules once again.

BEGALA: Right. I they think they were a little too cute by half. In 2004, John Kerry was running for president. A lot of us Democrats thought he might actually win. And so the Democrats running the legislature passed a law that said, oh, our Republican governor, Mitt Romney, he shouldn't be able to appoint a successor, so we will just have an election.

Well, now that the governor is a Democrat, the vacancy has occurred, tragically, in the other Senate seat, and now they're facing the prospect of five months without a vote in the Senate, without a second vote in the Senate.

And I think that's untenable for Massachusetts. So, there's enormous pressure now. Governor Patrick says now he will accede to Senator Kennedy's wishes. As you know, this might have been his last public request. The senator wrote a heartbreaking letter, a very poignant letter asking the state of -- the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to allow to -- the governor to provisionally appoint someone for that five-month interim, someone who would not then be eligible to run, so you wouldn't have some problems that some other states have had.

I -- I think that it's good that Governor Patrick is acceding to Senator Kennedy's -- basically, his last request. Let's see if the legislature does, though. He said, "I will sign it." He sounded a little passive. Will he fight for it?

Will the Democrats -- most of them owe their careers to Teddy Kennedy -- will they accede to his last request?


BLITZER: All right, let me switch gears and bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst.

A lot of folks remember that he was a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey, and he played a very significant role on several Supreme Court nominees, including Robert Bork, the former solicitor over at the Justice Department.

Listen to these words that he said that helped derail Bork's nomination.


KENNEDY: In Robert Bork's America, there is no room at the inn for blacks and no place in the Constitution for women. And, in our America, there should be no seat on the Supreme Court for Robert Bork.


BLITZER: As you know, Jeff, a lot of people thought Senator Kennedy went over the top in those words.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: You know, Wolf, a lot of the conversation today is about what a deal-maker, what a bipartisan figure Ted Kennedy was. And that's appropriate.

But it is also appropriate to say he was a partisan warrior when it came to the Supreme Court. And, almost single-handedly, he defeated the nomination of Robert Bork.

On July 1, 1987, the day that Bork was nominated, he went into the Senate and made that famous -- to some people, infamous -- speech. And it mobilized Democrats, and Bork lost. And -- and that seat went to Anthony Kennedy as a result. And Roe v. Wade was saved because Anthony Kennedy was there and not Robert Bork was there. And that's another legacy of -- of Ted Kennedy.

BLITZER: He cuts -- he cuts across so many areas.


BLITZER: You want to make a point, Dana.

BASH: I was just going to say, and it was a very clear strategy, because he was doing that to make sure that other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, like the now vice president, Joe Biden, would go his way in opposing Bork as well.

But it actually reminds me, Jeffrey makes an excellent point. We have been talking a lot about the fact that Ted Kennedy reached across the aisle, which he definitely did, but he was also fiercely partisan and he was very theatrical in that in many ways.

I remember running to the Senate chamber, just watching him. He was so animated and he was so boisterous that the walls were shaking, he was so, so, You know, loud, in talking about....


BASH: ... talking about what he believed in.

BLITZER: Yes. When he would...


BLITZER: When he would get excited, he would get excited.

BASH: Absolutely.

BORGER: But -- but the Supreme Court, first of all, is up or down. You are either yea or nay. There's no compromise in a -- in a Supreme Court nominee.

But as he stayed in the Senate, he used to tell his aides that he had made a mistake earlier on in his career when President Richard Nixon offered him a compromise of a version of universal health care, and the young liberal senator said no, because it wasn't perfect. And, so, I think he is that rare senator who kind of learned from his mistakes and moved on. I'm not saying Bork was a mistake. But what I'm saying is, is that he did learn that you could be ideological without being an ideologue.

BLITZER: Some would call that maturity.

BEGALA: Maturity, no, but also just pragmatism. I mean, when...


BEGALA: ... when the fight required, as Jeff said, a warrior, there was none better than Teddy Kennedy.

But there were other times when principled compromise was the order of the day. I spoke to him about this in 2001 when George W. Bush was coming in. And he said -- and this is a quote, what he said at the time: "I am by nature and disposition interested in making progress."

That's what he wanted. He didn't want perfection. But he felt he could make progress with Bush on education. And, in fact, he co- sponsored the No Child Left Behind law, one of Bush's few accomplishments.

BLITZER: I'm going to ask all of you to stand by, because we have a lot more to discuss. So, don't go very far away.

They battled on the Senate floor, but were very good friends. Coming up, my interview with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah -- his reflections on his political rival and private friend, including a look at the painting that Senator Kennedy gave him.

Plus, many close to Senator Kennedy say he turned his life around when he remarried back in 1992. We will hear in his own words why his wife, Victoria, was so crucial to his comeback.


BLITZER: The United States Capitol here in Washington, the American flag flying at half-staff, at the order of President Obama, in honor, in memory of Senator Kennedy.

I want to bring back our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

We were talking, Jeff, about the incredible influence he had across the board, whether on education, or civil rights, all sorts of domestic issues, foreign policy issues, as well, one of those senators who opposed the war in Iraq.

But when it -- when it came to the Judiciary Committee and the Supreme Court, what he said was often very powerful in influencing other Democrats.

TOOBIN: Absolutely, and at influencing -- influencing presidents. In 1993, when Byron White retired, President -- Senator Kennedy desperately wanted Bill Clinton to nominate his former aide, Kennedy's former aide, Stephen Breyer. And Clinton didn't do it. He nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead.

But, in typical Kennedy fashion, when Harry Blackmun resigned the next year, he went back to Clinton and back to Clinton, and Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer, who made his name in Washington as an aide to Senator Kennedy on the Judiciary Committee, again an example of his enormous influence.

He led the fight against Bork and he led fight for Stephen Breyer. No senator in history can say that.

BLITZER: Yes. So many of his staffers went on to much bigger and more important roles as well. He's got a whole alumni of Kennedy staffers who were incredibly -- turned out to be incredibly important, powerful people.

Jeff, stand by.

Want to check in with Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: We got some very touching e-mail.

The question is, why did America remain fascinated with the Kennedy brothers for more than 50 years?

We only have time to read you a few, but enjoy these.

Sean in Canada: I would have to say because the Kennedys were the all-American boys who could do no wrong. They were young boys out to lead America with hope for the future. Everybody knew them. They were the boys who lived down the street in the big house with the red door and the white picket fence, and the one whose oldest brother went off to war and died for America. I'm 24 years old, and I live in Canada, but, heck, I feel like they were my friends when I was a kid."

Lee writes: "They were rich, famous and good-looking, and all they really cared about was helping people who were less fortunate. I think made -- this made them very appealing to everybody. Not only did Ted take care of his own children. He helped to take care of his brothers' children when their fathers were taken away from them in such a horrific way."

Mageen in Virginia: "Just brothers? That's way too little. What Rose Kennedy taught her kids about having so much and giving back, I also heard at home. Consequently, I knew who all the Kennedys were. It was like they were related, even if by memorandum. Thanks to Jack Kennedy's presidential campaign, I got active in politics and still am."

Judy writes: "Maybe the fascination for the Kennedy brothers endured because they didn't just talk the talk. They walked the walk. They dedicated their entire lives to helping out the underdog. Who was it that said to whom much is given, much is expected?"

Lisa in California: "In this country, absent real dynasties and monarchies that still exist elsewhere, we had the next best thing, a family that spanned generations with the kind of stuff that makes a fine film or a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel: good looks, wealth, greed, ambition, lust, and style. Politics was the thread that wove all these qualities together. We simply couldn't and will never get enough."

And Ronald writes: "Jack, it's an easy question. They gave more than most for this country, and they asked for little for themselves."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there and hundreds of others.

I read that every day, but check out the e-mails on the passing of this lion of the U.S. Senate. There's some great mail came in. I wish we had more time.


BLITZER: Yes. I'm going to go read it later tonight, Jack. Thanks very much.

I spoke a little while ago with the former President of the United States Jimmy Carter. We spoke about Senator Kennedy, who was his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination back in 1980 -- that interview coming up.

And now that the last Kennedy brother is gone, who will pick up the family's political baton? We will check out the possibilities in the Kennedy family tree.

And Senator Kennedy in his own words. We're going to bring you his remarks at that 1980 Democratic Convention.

Plus, planning under way to say goodbye to the senator -- we're going to get a live update from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.


BLITZER: In today's "Hot Shots," we reflect on the life of Senator Ted Kennedy.

In England, back in 1938, Kennedy and his sister Jean watch the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Their father was the United States ambassador.

In this photo at Hyannis Port, Ted, who's on the right, shared a moment with his brothers, Robert and John. In 1985, Senator Kennedy and President Reagan looked at an American eagle that had graced President Kennedy's desk.

And, in 2008, Senator Kennedy passed the torch to then candidate Barack Obama by endorsing her -- him during his run for the presidency.

The Kennedys are regarded in the political dynasty and, by many, the closest thing the United States has to royalty.

Our Abbi Tatton is here with a closer look at the Kennedy family tree.

Abbi, there are certainly a lot of Kennedys.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, and a statement from the family called Senator Edward Kennedy the irreplaceable center of this family.

Senator Kennedy, one of nine, and with his death and the death of his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver earlier this month, now just one surviving member of that generation. That is Jean Kennedy Smith, best known probably for her role as U.S. ambassador to Ireland in the '90s.

Senator Kennedy is survived by his wife, Vicki Reggie, two stepchildren and his three children from his previous marriage, as well. Those are Kara, Edward Jr., Patrick, congressman of Rhode Island.

And among this generation of Kennedys, there are so many recognizable faces. There are cousins. You have got Caroline Kennedy, first lady of California Maria Shriver, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, former Congressman Joe Kennedy.

Wolf, so, many of the family members, we hear, were with Senator Ted Kennedy...


BLITZER: And, presumably, we will be hearing more from all of these Kennedys in the years to come.

Abbi, thanks very much.

Bitter political rivals at the time, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter went on to become friends and allies.

I asked the former president to share his memories of the late senator.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've already expressed our personal condolences and prayers to the Kennedy family, with a firm expression from our family that we have never seen anyone in the Senate that more assiduously and constantly and enthusiastically dedicated his life to trying to make sure that everything that the U.S. government decided was in the best interest of the people who were deprived or poor, or neglected, or felt the ravages of discrimination. And we really appreciate what Ted Kennedy meant to us personally and to our nation. And I don't -- don't think there is anybody, either, that can say there has been a more effective senator in promoting his own ideals, which are very high, than -- than Ted Kennedy did.

BLITZER: Let's go back to 1980. I was re-reading Adam Clymer's book on Senator Kennedy.

And, in -- in that book, he -- he -- he makes the point that one reason why Senator Kennedy decided to -- to challenge you for the Democratic presidential nomination was because he was disappointed you weren't moving more quickly on health care reform, specifically a national health insurance program.

Is that your recollection?

CARTER: Not at all. I have just the opposite impression of that.

But Ted Kennedy began running against me about the middle of 1979. And, in the fall of 1979, he was 2-1 -- or 3-1 ahead of me in the national opinion polls. So, we had a very tough, hard-fought, maybe sometimes divisive campaign against one another in the -- in the winter and springtime of 1980.

And, eventually, I -- I defeated Ted Kennedy quite severely.

And I think that was one of the things that divided our party the rest of that year. But I worked very eagerly to try to get a -- a comprehensive health bill passed.

And, although it -- it didn't meet the perfection standards that that -- Senator Kennedy espoused, it would have been a major step forward. So, we didn't quite agree on the technique of getting health care guaranteed for everyone, but -- but we both had our hearts in the same direction, I would say.


BLITZER: The former president speaking with me.