Remembering Ted Kennedy

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Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn
Vice President at Large and Fmr. Executive Editor, and Staff Writer and Moderator, On Faith, The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 26, 2009; 3:00 PM

Ben Bradlee, vice president at large and former executive editor of The Washington Post, and Sally Quinn, staff writer and moderator of On Faith at The Post, were online Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the life and career of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, from covering him as a senator, newsmaker and public figure to their personal recollections of the last male survivor of the famous American political family.

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washingtonpost.com: Please stand by. The chat will begin in a few minutes. Thank you.

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Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Hello, This is Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. We are both extremely saddened by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. We knew him at different times and in different situations but we both had enormous affection and admiration for him and we would be happy to answer your questions about him today.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I always thought 1968 was a pivotal year. It was the end of the Kennedy-Johnson New Society and the reversal of governance with Nixon conservatism. I always wonder what might have happened had Humphrey won and what Humphrey could have done to have changed the result. If Ted Kennedy could have been persuaded to run for vice president in 1968, do you think it would have changed the result, and what would you speculate a continuation of a democratic presidency into the 1970s might have meant for America?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: We both doubt it would have happened.

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Washington, D.C.: Wondered if you might hazard a guess if the senator might have been elected president but not for Chappaquiddick. Mr. Bradlee, I think you were aware of some scandals in Jack's past such as Mary Meyer, so would that have worked? I like to think he found his calling in the Senate, glad he did.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: It's possible but doubtful. In the Kennedy era there was so little press that the Mary Meyer scandal was never known.

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Burke, Va.: With the exception of Dr. King, has there been a person who was not president who exerted more influence over our political landscape?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Lyndon Johnson had a tremendous influence. He created the great society.

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Dallas, Tex. : Mr. Bradlee and Ms Quinn, Will Sen. Kennedy be remembered for his important social legislation or his vote against the Iraq war? Was he correct in comparing Iraq to Vietnam, and did he still consider his no vote to the Iraq war the most important vote of his career?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He will certainly be remembered for his social legislation but his vote against the Iraq war will certainly be important for his place in history.

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washingtonpost.com: Video: Kennedy Leaves Senate Vacancy at Crucial Time (AP, Aug. 26)

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Thank you, Sen. Kennedy: To what do you attribute Sen. Kennedy's deep, abiding commitment to public service? When he was left as patriarch of a family of widows and children at age 37, no one would have faulted him for leaving public life and tending to his large extended family. Instead he chose to soldier on, and our nation is better for his service.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: It was more than a family tradition, it was the family calling and personally it was what gave his life meaning.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Why do you think Sen. Kennedy worked so hard against President Carter? Did the senator's actions result in the Carter administration's somewhat poor record of accomplishments? In Carter's ultimate defeat? In the consequent Reagan ascendency?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Clearly his unsuccessful run for the nomination divided the party and made it possible for Reagan to win.

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Washington, D.C.: How could a fun-lover like Teddy Kennedy have forged such a close friendship with a more strait-laced figure like Orrin Hatch? Is that bipartisanship pretty much gone?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Unfortunately that sort of bipartisanship is pretty much lost in the Senate today. Those two were part of the old tradition.

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Maryland: Happy Birthday Ben.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Thanks. I'm 88 today and still kicking.

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Mannigton, W.Va.: Did Sen. Kennedy ever express regret at the slanderous things that he said about Judge Bork? It seems to me that will always be part of his legacy, having started the partisan demonizing of Supreme Court nominees.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Not to our knowledge.

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Alexandria, Va.: Will the body of Sen. Edward Kennedy lie in state in the U.S. Capitol during the funeral?

I believe his brother Robert did not, true?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: We don't know what the plans are.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I have my own story about meeting Ted Kennedy. Yet it is like so many other stories that it strikes me that Ted Kennedy was aware that people, even "little people" like me, would be remembering what Ted Kennedy would be doing for them and he took the time, indeed extra time, to be of help. You can answer this, yet was it the sense of duty that was instilled in the Kennedys that they should be attentive to others? Was it that Ted Kennedy realized what he meant to others and that he knew he did not wish to be remembered as one of the many prima donnas of politics who brush people aside or have aides take of their problems? What was it that made Ted Kennedy so caring about others, while at the same time being so genuine in his concern?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: It was his calling. You've pretty well summed it up.

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Norfolk, Va.: We must all honor this exceptional man's life by working to support his cherished universal health care program for all Americans. As when JFK's civil rights laws were enacted after his tragic death by LBJ, don't you think it is essential that President Obama, with the help of every single elected Democrat, picks up Teddy's torch and manages it to completion?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Of course and he says he intends to.

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New York, N.Y.: What is one or two things that would surprise us about Sen. Kennedy's tenure in the Senate? And who were his three closest friends in the Senate?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Chris Dodd was probably one of his closest friend, Bobby Byrd and Orrin Hatch considered themselves close to him as well. We can't think of any surprises.

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Annapolis, Md.: I understand that Joe pushed the boys into public service for many reasons ... but of all people, after all the tragedy he dealt with both in his family and personally, Teddy certainly could have been justified in simply leaving public life and spending his life sailing and carousing. Instead he became respected on both sides of the aisle and of course had quite an impact, some obvious, some that is etched deep into legislation. What made him continue along the path of public service in the face of what had happened to his brothers?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Clearly it was in his DNA. It was his calling and it gave his life meaning.

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D.C.: When I woke up this morning to the news of Sen. Kennedy's passing, I was deeply saddened. I immediately thought of the pending health- care battle. However, what has struck me is hearing the stories of the many individuals he helped during his tenure as a public servant. Not just the legislation he was able to pass but the individual attention to those in need and the follow-up he maintained with these individuals even after their need for his assistance had passed. I think that thoughtful follow up is what distinguishes him from many of his peers.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He was clearly a good Senator and cared about his constituents.

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San Antonio, Tex. : Sen. Kennedy had a reputation for being one of the hardest workers in the Senate. Do you think he always was one of the hardest workers or did this attribute develop in his later years? If there was a change in his devotion to work, why do you think it came about?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He was and it was really after losing the nomination for the presidency he realized how much he could accomplish in the Senate.

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Vero Beach, Fla.: Do you know if it was always his intent to be buried at Arlington alongside his brothers?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: We have no idea.

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Saint Augustine, Fla.: We mourn the passing of a great American hero. He fought the good fight and was a champion of just causes. He brought integrity to the table an attribute that is sadly lacking in some politicians at this particular juncture. Well done good and faithful servant of this wonderful country and its citizens. You and your family will be fixtures in American history. Rest in peace Teddy.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Amen.

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Wilmington, Del.: (I submitted this question too late for the earlier Kennedy chat, so I'm hoping it's early enough for this one:) The Economist has said that Ted Kennedy was arguably the last of the "fighting liberal" politicians like Paul Wellstone and Adlai Stevenson: "men who refused to compromise or triangulate in the Clinton style, and who made no apology for their beliefs." Last of the Clan (The Economist, Aug. 26) Do you see anyone else (Democrats) in the Senate or the House with this type of integrity, if that's the right word? This is coming from a die-hard liberal who's uncomfortable with the compromise that so many politicians make in order to get elected or to appease different constituencies, e.g., Obama making campaign promises regarding gay rights, and failing to follow through on them.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Actually he did compromise a lot which is why he was so effective.

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Washington, D.C.: What I remember about Sen. Kennedy was that he had affection for people, even for former 8th graders like me who wrote to him asking about his plans to campaign for president in 1972. In his reply, Mr. Kennedy thanked me for my interest in his campaign, and I was placed on a subscriber list to receive a newsletter about his office's activities. I treasured that reply and that willingness to subscribe to that newsletter, especially the latter item considering that I lived in Pennsylvania at the time and was not one of his Massachusetts constituents. Do you know of other similar situations where the late Senator has corresponded with young students like me?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: I'm sure there are thousands like you.

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washingtonpost.com: Photo Gallery: Edward M. Kennedy: Senator From 1962-2009

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Arlington, Va.: Are funerals at Arlington Cemetery public? Could one show up next week wherever it's held and watch the procession or whatever happens?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Also you need a special pass to get into Arlington cemetery in general. For funerals you can go there but it depends what kind of security there is.

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New Orleans, La.: In your opinion, who in the Congress will take on the mantle of human rights, justice, equality for the citizens? As an immigrant who grew up in Boston, we always knew that Ted Kennedy was representing us even if we were poor, minority, aged, rich, elite, white, businessmen, etc. We could physically see the institutions that Sen. Kennedy fought for in our communities throughout the state of Massachusetts and the country. Now It seems like the moral compass of public service is dead. Thanks.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Right now no one name comes to mind but there are always rising stars in the senate who will be ready to step forward.

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Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C.: What are the political prospects for Kennedy's son Patrick? I know he is extremely popular in Rhode Island as a U.S. rep. Might he rise to the Senate?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: There's not much in the way of vacancies right now and it's not clear he wants to take that on.

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Southington, Conn.: Mr. Bradlee, what do you consider to be Sen. Kennedy's enduring legacy?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He was the classic effective liberal.

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Marshall, Tex.: What singular thing or event will Ted Kennedy most be remembered?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: As an effective liberal.

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New York, N.Y.: How was Ted Kennedy able to overcome the shame/embarrassment of the Chappaquiddick incident? It was perhaps his darkest moment personally; it was not about the Kennedy family, but solely his personal failing.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: It was a difficult time and took a while for him to recover. Courage and the support of his family were crucial.

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Chicago, Ill.: Ben Bradlee:

You had a lot on interaction with JFK. How much interaction did you have with Ted Kennedy, and how were the brothers similar and different?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: I did not have much interaction with Ted. Ted was the younger brother whose future lay ahead of him. Jack had arrived.

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Washington, D.C.: One thing about Ted Kennedy I have not seen much of is mention of his Catholic faith, which has clearly been a huge influence in his life (a gift from his mother, I would surmise). He didn't seem to mention it much but his values (a notable exception being his stance on abortion, of course)seems to me to be so infused with Catholic social teaching.

Five or six years ago I used to see him often on Sunday at St. Matthews Cathedral. He would come in the side entrance. It was apparent that it was still very meaningful (and private) to him.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Ben: In my experience the Kennedy's seldom talked about their Catholic faith.

Sally: I think his faith was very meaningful to him and , as with his mother, sustained him through a lot of the family tragedies.

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Prince George's County, Md.: It's been mentioned that he was the last of the political influential Kennedys. But what about the third generation of Kennedys? Any luminary politicians there in this latest generation? If not, why not?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: There future still lies ahead of them but Tim Shriver is one of the stars to watch in this family.

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Knoxville, Tenn. : Was being the kid brother of Jack and Bobby a burden, inspiration or other for Teddy?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Both but more inspiration than burden.

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Charles Town, W.Va.: Ted Kennedy was the liberal voice in the Senate, a lion at times when he spoke with passion. Highly effective, he should be remembered as such. He was not alone. His staff was also considered one of the best on Capitol Hill. What is becoming of them? What part did they play in moving legislation? Could anything help the health-care reform now?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: They won't have any trouble fining jobs. He had a reputation of having the best staff in the Senate. His death may well influence the health care debate.

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New York: Politics has become very adversarial. What did he think, and how did he treat those who opposed his views? Thanks.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He was always very cordial and willing to listen to the other side.

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Washington, D.C.: I was junior staffer for Bobby in '68 and senior staff for Teddy and what I don't think people realize is that Teddy was no ideologue. He was an immensely practical and pragmatic person. If you went to him with some great idea but it was hopelessly unrealistic, it was a very short conversation.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: You're right.

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Southern Pines, N.C.: I would like to hear your opinion on politicians holding on to power past their ability to serve. It seems to me that his legacy might have been much larger if he had recognized his failing health and mentored an up-and-comer or at least facilitated a transition to a more robust personality. I am also thinking of Byrd from W.Va.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: He care too much about health care to step down.

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Washington, D.C.: Any chance the health-care bill that ultimately passes would be named for him? That would seem a fitting tribute. Sally, I think you've been really good with Quinn.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: We can't say. And thank you for the kind words about Quinn.

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Menifee, Calif.: I don't understand America's "love affair" with the Kennedy family. Can you take a stab at explaining it? I don't know if this passion is real or just perceived. How much of it has to do with empathy for their many family tragedies? How much has to do with many media members coming of age with JFK and the "Age of Camelot"? How much has to do with the Kennedys actually serving America? And it seems to me that the Bush and Kennedy family dynasties have a lot of similarities. Why do I not sense an American fascination or love for the Bushes?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: It's a combination with the Kennedy's of intelligence, glamour and a true sense of public service. We still have a wistful need in this country, despite our history for some sort of royalty. Besides, there are a lot of Kennedy. The Bush's aren't that numerous and seem to lack a certain glamour.

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Toronto, Canada: Hi Ben and Sally,

Could you give us an analysis of the important or interesting differences among Jack, Bobby, and Ted Kennedy that we would not know from general reading about them.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Jack was more urbane and sophisticated, Bobby was more sensitive and compassionate and Teddy was more dedicated and hardworking.

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Outside the Beltway: Did he once want to be a journalist?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Not that we know of.

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Anonymous: So many great losses recently -- Cronkite, Hewitt and now Kennedy. Do you see anyone emerging to take their place? Or is this truly the end for the generation to whom the Kennedys gave so much hope and promise in our public life?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: We are certainly nearing the end of a generation.

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New York, N.Y.: Where did you meet with Sen. Kennedy? Was he someone you would only interview at work, or would he stop by the Post offices? Did you every meet with Sen. Kennedy at home and, if so, what was he like in more relaxed atmospheres?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: WE both knew him separately. Ben was a close friend of Jacks. I met him covering events in Washington.

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Anonymous: Do you expect Sen. Kerry to become more visible, now that he is the senior senator from Mass.? Will he be championing any special projects of Ted's that were left undone?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Probably but he is his own man.

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Boston, Mass.: Did you ever butt heads with Sen. Kennedy over an article, column or editorial in The Post when you ran the paper?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Not that I can remember. He was not a head butter.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I was a Teddy fan, but the death of Mary Jo Kopechne only left more questions for me than answers.

What was Sen. Kennedy's relationship like with Mary Jo Kopechne's parents, Joe Kopechne (d. 24 Dec. 2003) and Gwen (d. 20 Dec. 2007). Did they forgive him for his role in the drowning of their only child?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: WE have no idea.

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New Haven, Conn.: Not that this may even be known yet, but I am wondering what Ted Kennedy may have said to Chris Dodd before Dodd's more recent cancer operation. Has this been disclosed, and do we know if they even spoke?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: WE don't know.

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Stuart, Fla.: It seems to me (at age 55) that with Ted Kennedy's death, an era has ended in the U.S. Senate. I am hard-pressed to think of anyone, on either side of the aisle, who combines the intellectual depth, strong uncompromising principles and keen interest in giving a voice to the voiceless.

I was hoping you could touch on what you think drove him to become such a champion for those less fortunate and why we no longer these type of men and women in the senate.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Clearly it was his calling but also it was a family tradition. Also, he was following the tents of his Catholic faith.

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Brooklyn: Happy Birthday Mr. Bradlee, hi Ms. Quinn. Is it possible for those that didn't experience segregation to understand the importance of the civil rights and social legislation of Sen. Kennedy?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Thank you. And we would hope so.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Sen. Ted Kennedy is described as the family patriarch. Who is considered the titular head of the Kennedy family now? Also, any thoughts as to which democratic senator might be able to fill Sen. Kennedy's mighty big shoes, particularly on the health-care front?

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: There really is no titular head of the family now. But watch Timmy Shriver. Nobody in the Senate either.

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Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn: Thank you so much for all of these wonderful questions. We have to leave you now. Please join us again. Ben and Sally

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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