In campaign ads, fundraising appeals and stump speeches, Edward M. Kennedy was, for Republicans, the embodiment of evil, the ultimate tax-and-spend liberal, the face of Big Government run amok.
But behind the scenes, the senator from Massachusetts, who died of cancer late Tuesday at the age of 77, repeatedly joined forces with the Senate’s most conservative Republicans to push through legislation, and even broke ranks with his party to champion causes touted by presidents despised by the Democratic rank and file.
With Sen. Bob Dole, Kansas Republican, it was the Americans with Disabilities Act. With President George W. Bush, it was the No Child Left Behind education reform law. He even worked with Sen. Strom Thurmond, an ultraconservative South Carolina Republican, on major crime legislation.
“We were very different political philosophies, but one of the real strengths of Sen. Kennedy was that once he gave you his word, then he would not only keep it, he would go against the majority of his party,” Sen. John McCain told The Washington Times on Wednesday.
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The Arizona Republican, also known to buck his party from time to time, found a strong ally in Mr. Kennedy as the pair sought to enact legislation to overhaul U.S. immigration policy. Both sides credit Mr. Kennedy for building a bipartisan coalition and, more, for keeping several powerful Democrats in line as an agreement was reached.
In a throwback to another era, the unapologetic liberal would fight tooth and nail with a conservative counterpart all day, then adjourn to the bar to share a beer with his opponent.
“The Republican Party raised millions of dollars over the years promising to protect the country from Ted Kennedy, but at the same time, Republican senators worked with him,” said Adam Clymer, a former newspaper reporter and author of “Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography.”
Check out more video coverage of Sen. Kennedy, here.
“There wasn’t a major piece of legislation, outside of minimum wage, where he didn’t have a Republican ally.”
It was not just the view of outsiders. In a survey by the Hill newspaper earlier this year, Mr. Kennedy’s colleagues voted him “the most bipartisan” senator.
Over the course of his nearly 47 years in the office, the liberal lawmaker worked with a wide range of top Republicans: Howard A. Baker, Hugh Scott, John C. Danforth, Orrin G. Hatch, Lauch Faircloth, Mr. Dole, Trent Lott and Mr. McCain.
Check out the Washington Times interactive Remembering Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
“I’ve been in fierce debates with him, but once the gavel came down, then it was all respect and friendship,” Mr. McCain said. “To a large degree, that’s disappeared. So far, I have not seen his replacement.”