Obama: Kennedy ‘Greatest senator of our time’

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Mr. Obama said that during his time in the Senate, from 2005 to 2008, he valued the “wise counsel” of the man known as the chamber’s liberal lion and that Mr. Kennedy “always had time for a new colleague.”

On Jan. 28, 2008, Mr. Kennedy endorsed Mr. Obama as the candidate offering a promise for the real change for which he had fought. The blockbuster news helped Mr. Obama as he battled Hillary Clinton for the party nomination. Mr. Kennedy became a frequent surrogate on the campaign trail until his diagnosis with brain cancer in May last year.

“I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency,” Mr. Obama said in the statement. “And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve profited as president from his encouragement and wisdom.”

Mr. Obama offered prayers for the Kennedy family.

Last month, Mr. Obama delivered to the Pope a letter from Mr. Kennedy. The president spoke briefly with Mrs. Kennedy after the Vatican visit, the White House said.

The last time Mr. Obama spoke with the ailing senator was June 2. They discussed the president’s health care efforts for less than 10 minutes, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

A tearful Vice President Joe Biden recalled his long association with Mr. Kennedy, particularly in Congress, and the impact he had on people near and far.

“He made everybody he worked with bigger, his adversaries as well as his allies,” Mr. Biden said at the Energy Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was supposed to announce American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant awards. “Every single important event of my life he was there.”

Mr. Biden recalled Mr. Kennedy supporting him as a “29-year-old kid” during his first and successful run for U.S. Senate.

“I literally wouldn’t be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy,” Mr. Biden said amid pauses to regain his composure.

Mr. Biden also recalling how Mr. Kennedy called the hospital most every day in 1972 when Mr. Biden’s family was in a car accident that killed his first wife and infant daughter.

“I’d turn around and some doctor from Massachusetts whom I never even asked for would be standing there,” Mr. Biden said. “And he did that for hundreds and hundreds of people.”

Mr. Biden said Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, told him: “He was ready to go, Joe. But we were not ready to let him go.”

About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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