It boggles the mind to imagine the decisions that were reached behind the closed doors of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s hideaway, the private office he kept near the Senate chamber.
Sitting around the table made from a ship’s rudder, and in front of portraits of his slain brothers John and Robert, Mr. Kennedy plotted strategy to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton, struck key deals with conservatives to pass the No Child Left Behind law, and helped assess then-Sen. John Edwards to see if he was the right man to join the 2004 presidential ticket.
As with so much of his life, Mr. Kennedy’s hideaway was grander than other senators’: it was larger, choicer in location and more decorated with artifacts from top leaders than his colleagues’.
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Mr. Kennedy, a one-time presidential hopeful, nine-term senator and last of the major public figures from the American version of Camelot, died at age 77 of brain cancer, his family said early Wednesday. He leaves a controversial personal history, a complicated legacy of defiance and compromise, and a gaping hole in American liberalism.
“An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time,” said President Obama, who last month awarded Mr. Kennedy the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Outside of Washington Mr. Kennedy was a divisive figure, loved by liberals and hated by conservatives. But inside the Senate he was known as a gracious and gifted lawmaker, eager to work across the aisle if it meant getting major legislation passed.
He built a legislative empire unequaled in modern times, with more than 300 of his bills signed into law. He was instrumental in pushing the No Child Left Behind education reform, the Americans with Disabilities Act and a host of health care measures.
Click here to see a timeline of Mr. Kennedy’s life.
Although he lost a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Kennedy became kingmaker to other Democrats seeking the White House. He pioneered what later became Democratic mantras, ranging from universal health insurance in the 1970s to opposition to the Iraq war in 2003.
“Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy. More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
Mr. Kennedy was the youngest of Joseph and Rose Kennedy’s nine children. Among his siblings were John F. Kennedy, whose presidency gave rise to the label of Camelot that has stuck to the family ever since, and Robert F. Kennedy, a former senator, attorney general and presidential candidate. Both men were assassinated in the 1960s.
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife, Vicki; three children, including Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island; one sister, Jean Kennedy Smith; and dozens of grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
In the most notorious chapter of his life, Sen. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after a July 18, 1969, incident in Chappaquiddick, Mass., when he swerved off the Dike Bridge and into Poucha Pond. He swam away from the wreck but left 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, a passenger in his car, to drown.View Entire Story
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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