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THE SITUATION ROOM

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Aired August 26, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is time now for Barack Obama!

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The patriarch of a dynasty and a lion of liberalism, yet he knew how to reach across the aisle.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made everybody he worked with bigger, both his adversaries, as well as his allies.

BLITZER: Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, a profile encouraged during his final days and an inspiration to many Americans throughout his life.

KENNEDY: Hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KENNEDY: Hope rises again. And the dream lives on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM for our special coverage of the life and death of Senator Edward Kennedy.

Right now, flags are flying at half-staff at the White House, the Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, and over at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Tomorrow, the senator's body will be taken to the JFK Presidential Library in Boston to lie in repose before a memorial service Friday night. A private funeral mass is scheduled for Saturday morning at a Boston church. Then, Senator Kennedy will be buried near his brothers at Arlington National Cemetery here in Washington.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's over at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston.

A lot of work remaining to be done as the nation honors this senator.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, this is a place that Senator Kennedy, the John F. Kennedy Library here in the Dorchester section of Boston, is a place he cherished so much, and he made sure it was kept alive, kept ever changed and updated to honor the legacy of his brother Jack, the late president of the United States.

And it will become a shrine for Teddy Kennedy in the next 48 hours. His staff tells us that, yes, he will lie in repose. People will get to come visit him here. The people of Massachusetts he served for nearly 50 years in the United States Senate will get a chance to say a final farewell.

Members of Congress and other dignitaries from around the country and indeed around the world expected to come and pay their respects. And that service Friday night, it will be a service. But we are told to expect a celebration of his office, much more of an Irish wake, will have much more of an Irish Catholic wake that will be full of laughter and richness and a celebration of his life.

And we are told that among those who will speak at that will be Senator John McCain, the Republican senator who of course ran against Barack Obama in the last presidential election but for many years worked with Senator Kennedy on immigration, on other issues in the United States Senate, part of a bipartisan and part of what we are told to expect to be a funny, lively tribute and celebration of his life here at the Kennedy Library Friday night.

And at the funeral mass on Saturday, it will be at Mission Church, a basilica just a few miles from here, Wolf, in the Mission Hill, a gritty, blue-collar section of Boston. We are told that is the first time we will see President Obama paying tribute to Senator Kennedy in the three days of tribute and celebrations here.

The president will attend the funeral, we are told. And one last point, Wolf, I want to make, quickly. As Senator Kennedy's body is brought from the family compound in Hyannis Port, his favorite spot, the cherished land of the Kennedys in Hyannis Port, before it comes here, they will take a drive around the city of Boston.

We expect them to stop at many key places in the family history and also in some of the working-class neighborhoods that were so critical to the Kennedy family's political success here in Massachusetts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He was a pretty observant Catholic. I read, John, that when his daughter was suffering from cancer, he went to daily mass at that same basilica, that same church where the mass will take place Saturday morning.

KING: She was being treated in a hospital nearby. And the senator kept a near-constant vigil at her side. And he did. That's when that church, the basilica, it is known as the Mission Church here by the native Bostonians because of the Mission Hill district it is in, and again that's a blue-collar neighborhood just off the edge of downtown Boston as you move to the south side of downtown, into what is called the South End and the Mission Hill district, a very working- class neighborhood where the senator spent so much time.

He formed a bond with that church and decided that is where he wanted this very special final funeral mass to be, Wolf.

BLITZER: John, thank you.

Let's go over to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, which the senator and the entire Kennedy family loved so much.

CNN's Mary Snow is outside.

Mary, tell us what's going on now.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a few moments ago, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry came out and spoke, sounding emotional at times, saying that the Kennedy family is very grateful, in his words, for the outpouring of support, particularly Vicki Kennedy.

And he described what was going on inside the Kennedy compound, saying it is a beautiful and personal private vigil with the senator lying at rest. And he called it very spiritual, his voice wavering at some points.

There have been cars going in and out throughout the day. We have seen some family members entering the compound. It's been a very private gathering. Not far from here, though, in Hyannis, more of a public outpouring at the JFK Museum, where people from Massachusetts, visitors are showing up, laying flowers, signing condolences, messages inside the museum that is filled with personal history of the Kennedy family, the curator saying that Senator Ted Kennedy would often visit there, taking tours, loved to tell stories about his family's personal history.

And as you just mentioned, Wolf, that Hyannis Port was much cherished among the Kennedy family, including sailing, which Senator Ted Kennedy had a love for that. His boat, the Maya, he used to go out on up until this month.

And tonight you might be able to see behind me that there is a red ship out there. It's the Nantucket Lightship. And it is described kind of as a floating lighthouse. And there are plans to beam a ray of light later on tonight symbolizing hope here in Hyannis Port -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow is in Hyannis Port for us.

I interviewed Senator Kennedy many times. But I want to show you this, the last time I saw Senator Kennedy in person. I was invited to a star-studded musical tribute to him over at the Kennedy Center here in Washington in March. President Obama was there. And he led the crowd in singing happy birthday to Senator Kennedy, who just turned 77. Everyone knew that that birthday might be his last. Let's listen in. It was such a beautiful evening. There, you see Senator Kennedy with Michelle Obama up in the presidential suite there. What a night it was.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File." A lot of artists performed in Senator Kennedy's honor. And when the president -- he was the new president back in March -- when he walked out, that crowd was electrified.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That was a nice shot, too, seeing Michelle Obama and I think right behind Senator Kennedy was Senator John Kerry. I too had the chance to interview the senator, the late senator now, when he was running for president back in 1980 against Jimmy Carter.

And everybody says the reason that he may have lost that election, Carter was certainly vulnerable, was that he had trouble doing a live television interview, not the one I did with him, when he was asked the question why he wanted to be president. He didn't answer it very well. And a lot of people thought that was maybe the moment that he lost the chance at the White House.

One of the causes nearest and dearest to Senator Kennedy's heart was health care reform. We have been talking about that off and on all afternoon. Kennedy was a fierce advocate for health care reform. Back during the Clinton's effort at overhaul in the early '90s, he was the leader in helping to pass this recent legislation that provides health care to millions of children.

But had he lived, Kennedy likely would have been disappointed once again, as it seems now the chances of getting health care reform done are receding yet again. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold told voters in his home state of Wisconsin there would likely be no bill before the end of the year and maybe never -- quoting here -- "Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas and maybe not even then, if this ever happens. The divisions are so deep. I have never seen anything like that" -- unquote.

Feingold said it's unfortunate that Congress is headed in the direction of doing absolutely nothing. He added he couldn't say whether he would support a health care bill until he actually sees one. Feingold has been a supporter of trying a variety of health care reform ideas in the different states first, instead of applying the same massive changes to the entire country. He says he doesn't think that a one-size-fits-all approach would work as well as allowing the states to have some flexibility.

It's definitely not a good sign for President Obama when you have members of your own party questioning whether health care reform is ever going to happen.

Here's the question. What will it mean to health care reform if it is delayed until Christmas and maybe beyond? You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

And not to detract from the solemnity or the emotion of the day, Wolf, but politics in this country is a bear-knuckle sport. And don't think for a minute that it's lost on the Republicans that there is no longer a filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Jack. Thank you. Coming up a little bit less than an hour from now, we are going to bring you the HBO documentary "Teddy: In His Own Words."

Here is a preview of Senator Kennedy talking about his early days growing up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: People have a lot of challenges, a lot of heartache during the course of their lives and still try and reach out an help other people. And that's sort of a central kind of theme in terms of our development.

From the days of high school, I always wanted to run for office. I would say, probably in college, I really became most interested in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no stopping (INAUDIBLE), who clicked with a touchdown toss that's deflected to end Ted Kennedy, brother of Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy.

KENNEDY: All of us played sports. In our family, all the boys and girls were all really treated very equally. And then there was the strongest of the pecking order. I mean, people understood that, of course, being the youngest member of the family and being more conscious of that.

You always take some grilling being the youngest anyway. They said that I didn't wait in line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You are going to want to see this documentary. It begins later this hour, this HBO documentary, "Teddy: In His Own Words."

Without Ted Kennedy, would President Obama even be in the White House today? Stand by as we look back at Senator Kennedy's crucial endorsement of then candidate Obama early in the 2008 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor.

But when John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn't say, it's too far to get there; we shouldn't even try. Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge. And, today, an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past several years, I have had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor and a friend. And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama today remembering Ted Kennedy as one of the greatest senators of our time. Their brief but strong relationship was forged during the 2008 presidential campaign when the veteran senator went out on a limb for his less experienced, but promising colleague.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here.

A lot of people think that that endorsement over Hillary Clinton was really important in helping Barack Obama become president of the United States.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was very important. But the two were not running buddies. They didn't socialize much. But they had a great sense of respect for each other which became evident in the campaign.

I had a chance to talk to one of his closest advisers, David Axelrod, today about the relationship. And Kennedy, at first, he was reticent to endorse anyone, because he had so many friends in the running. But he came to see Obama as a transformational figure, like his late brother John F. Kennedy. And so he gave him his blessing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY: I feel change in the air.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: It was a defining moment, the passing of the torch.

KENNEDY: I'm proud to stand with him today and offer my help, offer my voice, offer my energy, my commitment to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: The towering liberal lion of the Senate declared Barack Obama the future of the party.

KENNEDY: My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey, to have the courage to choose change.

MALVEAUX: The weight of the Kennedy legacy giving Obama the lift he had been desperately longing for.

OBAMA: I stand here today with a great deal of humility. I know what your support means. MALVEAUX: It was a critical time during the campaign.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We were like shot from a cannon. And he was in many ways the certification that we needed to people who liked Obama, believed in Obama, but weren't quite sure that he was ready to take the reins of leadership.

MALVEAUX: When Obama was first elected to the Senate in 2004, he quickly reached out to Kennedy for guidance.

AXELROD: Senator Obama had huge respect for him going in, because Kennedy was the kind of principled pragmatist that Obama aspired to be.

MALVEAUX: Obama courted Kennedy's endorsement for months and remained poker-faced right up to the day before. Following that endorsement, Kennedy took to the trail.

AXELROD: And when we went on the road with him, and he was such a joyous, ebullient -- and he conveyed the sense of enthusiasm and idealism that was contagious.

MALVEAUX: But after Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer, he was largely out of the spotlight. In August, he reemerged at another critical time for Obama and the party to reunite the Democrats.

KENNEDY: I have come here tonight to stand with you, to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Wolf, a little-known story, too, Kennedy also intervened when he thought the language was racially charged between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama camps. He got them together and he actually tried to make sure that they toned down their language. It was kind of somewhat of a truce if you will. And so he was very influential.

BLITZER: He certainly played a key role in getting Barack Obama elected president of the United States. I don't think there is any doubt about that.

Suzanne, thank you.

And this important reminder to our viewers, that tonight right after THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, you can see the acclaimed HBO documentary "Teddy: In His Own Words." Among other things, Senator Kennedy shares his memories of when his brother John F. Kennedy won the presidency. Today, one of Senator Kennedy's best friends in the Senate shared his thoughts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: For me, it is just a great loss of a great friend and a great, great advocate for people. So, I am saddened by it deeply. It is like losing a brother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We will get back to our coverage of the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Senator Ted Kennedy evolved over the decades in the public eye. Ahead, the kid brother of a slain president who grew into a giant of the United States Senate, respected by political friends and rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I can't help think about Ted and not smile. I hope we have one hell of a wake in America, that conservatives and independents and Republicans and Democrats and liberals and vegetarians will understand, whether you agreed with him or not, he was a force of nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Inside the U.S. Capitol right now, Senator Kennedy's desk in the Senate chamber is off-limits to cameras, but we thought you should know it is draped in black cloth with a vase of flowers on it and a copy of a Robert Frost poem right there.

Senator Kennedy's passing closes another chapter in the Camelot legacy surrounding his family.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, you have been thinking about this.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have.

And, Wolf, it is not just, I think, that a chapter in Camelot that has been closed. I think actually the book on Camelot has been written. And it was written by the youngest of four brothers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): He had a name that rang down through generations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you Kennedy?

KENNEDY: I'm Kennedy. CROWLEY: It was a gilded name in politics, but Ted Kennedy's life was an almost impossible kaleidoscope of outstanding public service, astonishing personal failures, and a heavy burden of the unfulfilled legacies and promise of three older brothers, Joseph, Jack, Bobby.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It reminds me there's a great quote by Ernest Hemingway who said, everyone is broken by life, but, afterwards, some are stronger in the broken places.

CROWLEY: At 36, Teddy, the youngest of the Kennedys, became the patriarch when Bobby, whose 1968 presidential campaign championed the sick, the poor, and the elderly, was assassinated.

KENNEDY: Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.

CROWLEY: In the four decades since that day, the Kennedy legacy was Teddy's to fulfill, his to write.

It's an imperfect story of an often reckless young man who lived hard and, as a U.S. senator, drove a car off a bridge after a party, killing a young campaign aide.

He would never be president. The dream of Camelot, as Jackie Kennedy once described her husband's brief presidency, was over the night Kennedy conceded the primaries to President Jimmy Carter.

KENNEDY: 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.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: So, Kennedy returned to the Senate. And, there, over the next 30 years, he grew older, wiser and greatly admired. In the Senate was redemption. In the Senate, the dream came alive.

In the Senate, early in the morning, late at night, Ted Kennedy fought and cut deals for minimum wage increases, health care, education, immigration reform, help for the poor, the elderly and the sick.

DODD: There are millions of people who counted on this guy every day to stand up for them. And, for decades to come, history will talk about his legislative accomplishments and the difference he made in public policy.

CROWLEY: Even before Kennedy's death, colleagues on the right and left mourned his absence in the health care debate. Now, they feel it acutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And of all of the times to lose Ted Kennedy, this is the toughest time because we're just in too many camps and it's hard to reach across the aisle. And Senator Kennedy made it easy to reach across the aisle.

CROWLEY: Eventually, someone will fill the Senate seat of Edward Moore Kennedy. But there is pretty much universal agreement nobody -- family or friend -- can take his place. A man has passed, taking with him a time and an era. The Kennedy legacy is written.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY: Every once in a while, someone comes along, Wolf, where the mold is broken. This is probably one of those times. Leaving lots of nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, all of whom -- many of whom are engaged, as you know, in good public works, but none, at this point, that seem on a path toward what Teddy Kennedy eventually became.

BLITZER: Yes. They could be, indeed. But there's no doubt he was unique.

Thanks, Candy, very much.

In Candy's report, you heard that famous clip of Senator Kennedy's 1980 "The Dream Shall Never Die Speech." He put a new spin on those words at the Democratic National Convention 28 years later in support of Barack Obama.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM AUGUST 25, 2008)

KENNEDY: We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor. But when John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn't say it's too far to get there, we shouldn't even try. Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge. And today, an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

(APPLAUSE)

KENNEDY: Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver given exactly one year to the day before he passed away. I interviewed Senator Kennedy quite a few times over the years. Stand by to hear some of his more memorable answers to my questions, including when I pressed him about his original vote against the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Did we really fight against those who attacked the United States, which was the Al Qaeda?

The answer to that is clearly no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Newspaper headlines across the nation on this day recalling Senator Kennedy. "The State" -- "The Senate Loses Its Lion," "The Desert Sun" in Nevada says "Nation Mourns Icon." So many of those headlines all over the United States.

I was certainly fortunate enough to interview Senator Kennedy on a number of occasions over the years. We discussed his political victories, his defeats, mistakes made and a lot more.

Back in 2007, I asked him about his regrets at helping President Bush pass the No Child Left Behind education legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator, you worked with President Bush on this.

If you had to do it all over again, you would do exactly the same thing?

KENNEDY: No. As I say, we always learn. We always learn from the past experience. I think there are going to be changes that are going to be made in this legislation. I hope we're going to also get the -- the resources that are going to be necessary.

We left three million children out of the No Child Left Behind. They -- they were really left out and I don't think that that's acceptable.

So we have a challenge that's out. We understand that. But we are interested in trying to -- to do what all parents in this country want to do, and that is strengthen our -- our public education system and do it well, to make sure that we're going to have a quality education system.

We are living in a global economy. Knowledge is the key. Education is the key to hope and opportunity for the children of this country. And the public high school systems are -- are certainly a very important part of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Senator Kennedy urged a bipartisan approach to another red hot issue, immigration reform.

Here's a snippet from our interview in 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let me ask you, basically you're on the same page -- correct me if I'm wrong -- with the president, more or less, when it comes to this issue of illegal immigration?

KENNEDY: Well, we're -- we're not quite there yet. But I must say, I admire the fact that the president has been talking about this issue, which is a highly emotional issue.

But we're not quite there yet. But we've made some important progress. It would certainly be Senator McCain's idea and mine that we could try and bring the president in.

Look, Wolf, at the most important time in our nation's history, Republicans and Democrats came together with the president and we passed our civil rights laws, knocking down walls of discrimination on race and religion, ethnicity, on disability, on this. We've done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And I also pressed Senator Kennedy about the war in Iraq. This exchange from our interview in 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You voted against that original resolution way back and you said say that was the best vote in your 42 years in the United States Senate. Saddam Hussein was executed, as you know, in the last few weeks.

Was the country better off?

Was the U.S. interests in that part of the world better off under Saddam Hussein?

KENNEDY: Well, the fact is, he was a brutal dictator. There -- I mean there's no -- no question about that.

But the question is, are we -- did we really fight against those who attacked the United States, which was the Al Qaeda. The answer to that is clearly no.

This administration, rather than pursuing Osama bin Laden and pursing the Al Qaeda -- and when you add the Al Qaeda just a -- virtually in a small group -- what we have seen is that it has metastasized all over the world. And we have less respect, less ability to deal with that particular challenge in the world today than we did previously. And that is a cumulation of -- of mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy had to shepherd his family through many tragedies and losses, including the death of his sister-in-law, the former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Even as the nation prepares to lay Ted Kennedy to rest, we remember how he helped us lay so many members of his family members to rest.

Listen to this eulogy he gave his sister-in-law, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, back at her funeral in 1994.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: I often think of what she said about Jack in December after he died -- they made him a legend, when he would have preferred to be a man.

Jackie would have preferred to be just herself, but the world insisted that she be a legend, too. She never wanted public notice, in part, I think, because it brought back painful memories of unbearable sorrow endured in the glare of a million lights.

In all the years since then, her genuineness and depth of character continued to shine through the privacy and reach people everywhere. Jackie was too young to be a widow in 1963 and too young to die now.

Her grandchildren were bringing new joy to her life -- a joy that illuminated her face whenever you saw them together, whether it was taking Rose and Tatiana for an ice cream cone or taking a walk in Central Park with little Jack, as she did last Sunday. She relished being grand Jackie and showering her grandchildren with love.

At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.

In truth, she did everything she could and more for each of us. She made a rare and noble contribution to the American spirit. But for us, most of all, she was a magnificent wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, aunt and friend. She graced our history. And for those of us who knew and loved her, she graced our lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What a family, indeed.

Let's go back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wow!

He had a way with words, didn't he?

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, what will it mean if health care reform is delayed until Christmas and maybe beyond?

Jeff in Isla Vista, California: "All it will mean if health care is delayed is that the Democratic Party will have time to solidify its power base and have a better chance of passing a bill that they like. I'm sure the Edward Kennedy Health Care Act of 2009 will pass with the public option."

Ken in Arkansas writes: "Delaying health care reform is not a sign of its failure, it's a sign of the failure of the Democratic Party. If they had any backbone at all, this would have been passed before the summer recess. Instead, their internal bickering makes them weak, subject to future legislative failures and substantial losses in 2010. The Republicans may be on life support, but the Democrats are cutting their own throats. You tell me which lives longer."

Stephanie in Virginia writes: "I feel similar to the way I felt each time George Bush was elected -- that the country would reap what it was sowing -- the inevitable slow descent into second class country hood. Our empire will continue to decline and fall if we don't get a handle on health care costs. This absolutely means getting rid of insurance companies' monopoly on costs. Incidentally, I'm a physician."

Mike in Alabama: "That our do nothing government continues to do nothing. They don't solve problems. Each party lays traps for the other one and plots ways to score points. They don't have any real interest in solving our nation's problems. Make the other guy look bad so we can regain or maintain power is what it's all about."

And John in San Diego says: "Jack, it will mean what we already know -- we have a Congress full of legislators who are incapable of legislating. The last and only true American legislator passed away last night. If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thank you.

See you back here tomorrow.

Don't forget right here on CNN in just a few minutes, the acclaimed HBO documentary, "Teddy: In His Own Words." We'll have that for you.

But first, Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at the funny side of Senator Kennedy. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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 watched the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Their father was then the U.S. ambassador.

In this photo in Hyannis Port, Ted, who is 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 him during his run for presidency.

The lion of the Senate is dead, but his spirit and humor certainly live on, as our Jeanne Moos notes, he had a Moost Unusual knack for telling jokes and sometimes being the brunt of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Newspapers called him "The Lion" -- "The Lion" of the Senate, "The Liberal Lion."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WFSB)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: He fought like a lion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And speechwriter Ted Sorenson says he roared.

TED SORENSON: An enormous laugh. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)

KENNEDY: Close Teddies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Whether on "60 Minutes" or at a convention, Ted Kennedy was known for his sense of humor -- for instance, cheering up his friend after Senator Dodd's recent surgery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WFSB)

DODD: And some choice comments, which I can't refer to in public, about -- about having prostate surgery, you know, and what catheters mean to people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: He used humor to taunt political opponents, like George Bush, Sr. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Where was George?

Where was George?

Where was George?

Where was George?

Where...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But humor cuts both ways. "Saturday Night Live" spooked Senator Kennedy questioning Clarence Thomas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY SNL/BROADWAY VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever tried coming out of the bathroom nude and acting like you didn't know someone was there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's too bad because that works, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Senator Kennedy did his own impression of his grandfather on "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)

KENNEDY: Who's that number two, Martin?

Who's that boy?

But that young Harry (INAUDIBLE) isn't his father in the insurance business?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: He often used the same line to introduce himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)

KENNEDY: Now are you glad to see old Kennedy?

Are you glad to see me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Eight years later, he was still glad to use the same line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: Are you glad to see me?

Are you glad to see me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And when he was really glad, he sang...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...in Spanish before Hispanic audiences.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: In English when demonstrating how he used to croon to his mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)

KENNEDY (singing): My dear little Rose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Now the sail boat loving senator has boarded that sail boat in the sky. Cartoonist Jeff Danziger drew JFK at the wheel and Robert Kennedy welcoming Ted abroad an ocean of clouds -- an image that might coax a smile from the senator.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Truly an icon, indeed.

That's it for me. I'll see you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to Campbell Brown.

She's going to introduce a CNN special presentation -- and, Campbell, this is something really special.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: It is, indeed, Wolf.

Senator Kennedy's death a terrible loss. Watching the reaction today, you get a real sense of how much he was loved and appreciated by his league colleagues, his neighbors and many other people who didn't even know him.