Part 2: Living History: Ted Kennedy, Remembered.
In 2004, Kennedy was hopeful that John Kerry, whom he had served alongside in the Senate for 19 years, would prevail in his presidential run against George W. Bush. As Kerry’s loss became clear late on election night, Kennedy and Vicki visited him at home. “He was down about the opportunities lost to move the country in a new, more progressive direction,” Kennedy would recall in his memoir. “The reelection of President Bush meant that it would be another four years before there might be a great leader in the White House.”
Woodlief: He worked it very hard for Kerry, went out to Iowa and made some of these famous speeches where he yelled so loud he could wake the dead.
Kerry: Ted was campaigning [for me] with [my daughter] Vanessa in New Mexico. They were visiting an Indian reservation and the tribal medicine man wanted to bestow a blessing. He took a feather and chanted as he asked Vanessa and Ted to stand side by side, extend their hands, and bow their heads. With a sacred feather he touched their foreheads, touched their hands and their feet, all the while chanting away. When he finished, Ted leaned over to Vanessa and whispered, “I think we just got married.” Ted loved sending personal notes to people. So a couple of months later, Vanessa got a note from Teddy in which he paraphrases the famous Humphrey Bogart line from Casablanca: “No matter what happens, we will always have New Mexico.”
Tomlin: The mail would come and I’d have a little handwritten note from Ted. I have actress friends who don’t even send me handwritten notes. Their secretaries type them up.
Kerry: He worked as hard as anyone to get me elected, and he was there on election night when a lot of people didn’t know what to say as the votes turned and bad news trickled in from Ohio. It was one of those moments where Teddy just had an instinct to show up and be there—he’d done the same thing before, standing there on my front steps after my father died. He and Vicki brought big hugs and total understanding…. The next morning, Ted and Vicki were the first to arrive at my home again…and together we took a long walk up a short flight of stairs at Faneuil Hall to concede.
Kennedy made a point of not getting involved in contested Democratic races. “If you are a senior leader in the party, it’s just awkward,” says Governor Deval Patrick. But in early 2008, just days before the Super Tuesday primaries, Kennedy broke his own rule by endorsing Barack Obama for president over Hillary Clinton.
Tribe: I said, “Teddy, I think it’s critical for the country that Barack be the nominee. I know you try to avoid becoming involved….” He cut me off. “You don’t have to say another word. Caroline is coming out for him tomorrow and I’m going to do it three days from now.” Then he started musing, “You know, Barack says that we’ve got to turn the page, and that means he’ll have to turn the page a bit on people like you and me.”
Hagan: People underestimated how much civil rights meant to him. He called me before his endorsement and said, “We fought our whole life for this, and now it’s our time. We’ve got to do this.”
Nolan: I think one reason he chose Obama over Hillary is that he could see Obama was more of a leader and not a triangulator. There was something straightforward about Kennedy. Bill Clinton was all indirection and bullshit.
Patrick: I’ll tell you, we had some pretty interesting conversations about his conversations with President and Mrs. Clinton after that decision.
Johnston: When he was campaigning for Obama, I arranged for him to speak at a luncheon. He looked good and gave a good speech. Six hours later, Teddy came [into an event] with Vicki and he looked terrible. He started talking about Bobby; he started to cry. He couldn’t go on. He went over to a chair and just plopped into it, and then Vicki embraced him. I called Ethel Kennedy and said he’d better take a month off. A week later, he collapsed.