Starting late Thursday afternoon and evening and continuing again on Friday, Kennedy will lie in repose at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston so that the thousands of well-wishers can pay their last respects to the senator and to write notes of condolences to his wife, Victoria, and other family members. All of this will then lead up to the funeral mass on Saturday morning at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, known as the Mission Church, in Boston, where President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.
All the major local channels, ABC, NBC, CBS, along with CNN and PBS will carry the funeral service on live tv, and it can be seen on the Dish Network.
As we look back over Kennedy's nearly 47 year career in the US Senate, one thing that really stands out among comments from his fellow lawmakers is his ability to reach across the aisle and form bipartisan coalitions in order to pass important social legislation at a time when most colleagues seem to be battling with each other.
The greatest evidence of the love and respect that Kennedy was able to generate among the opposition is the appearance of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona who will speak at the Celebration of Life Memorial Service at the Kennedy Library on Friday night who even went so far as to call Kennedy, "irreplaceable."
McCain, of course, was the GOP's candidate for president in 2008, who lost to Barack Obama in the race for the White House. I have to wonder how often such a staunch opponent of such a high-profile politician is invited to speak at such a memorial service as this.
And it's not a short list of such opponents, either. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has worked regularly with Kennedy on health care issues including the current health-care reform bill, recently said, "Teddy was the only Democrat who could move their whole base to agree to certain provisions in a bill. If he finally agreed, the whole base would come along, even if they didn't like it". That sounds like the definition of a polital leader to me; he always had this credibility among his constituents and supporters who continued to trust and believe in him even when he altered his position. In politics, this is not easily accomplished. Sometimes, it can cost an election.
Another Republican, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH., said, "There is nobody else like him". "If Ted had been physically up to it and had been engaged on this health-care bill, we'd probably have an agreement by now", added Gregg.
Even former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said, "Bipartisanship takes a person that has leadership and personal charm, quite frankly, and a desire to get a final result." He added, "He didn't try to destroy you to get that result."
Kennedy understood very well how the senate worked, and he knew only too well that each senator still had to go back home and answer to his own constituents in order to be reelected every six years. Kennedy, himself, won 9 elections for his Senate seat. Kennedy even worked out an agreement with President George W. Bush in 2002 to pass The No Child Left Behind Act for the nation's schools.
Each of these Republican opponents, and others across the aisle have all seemed to come to the same conclusion: that Ted Kennedy could disagree with an opponent without being disagreeable. They all seem to point to his charming Irish personality, his civility during negotiations, and his skill as a deal-maker that he combined in order to forge agreement on some of the most sweeping and controversial social legislation of his time.
Hopefully, this may cause people to take a breath, step back a little, and start talking with each other again in more civil tones about what needs to be done because that's what Teddy would do. Maybe, now that he's gone, they may just be able to come to an agreement on the provisions of a health-care reform bill as a way to honor the passing of the 'Lion of the Senate', Ted Kennedy, who had worked for its passage for four decades.
By: Frank Bilotta