- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

At the dedication of an institute honoring Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, President Obama said Monday that more public servants should be like the late liberal lawmaker.

“What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy?” Mr. Obama said in Boston. “What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?”

Mr. Obama said that, to partisans, his call to exemplify Kennedy “may sound foolish.”

“But there are Republicans here today for a reason,” Mr. Obama said. “They know who Ted Kennedy was. It’s not because they shared Ted’s ideology or his positions, but because they knew Ted as somebody who bridged the partisan divide over and over and over again, with genuine effort and affection, in an era when bipartisanship has become so very rare.”

One of the Republicans there, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, recalled Kennedy’s “zest for political argument” and said the Senate hasn’t been the same without him.

“That’s mostly for reasons unrelated to losing Ted, but I have no doubt the place would be a little more productive and a lot more fun if he were there,” Mr. McCain said. “I miss fighting with him, to be honest. It’s gotten harder to find people who enjoy a good fight as much as Ted did.”

The $79 million institute stands next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Boston’s Columbia Point. The late senator envisioned the facility before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. He died at age 77 in 2009.

The centerpiece of the new facility is a replica of the Senate floor, where Kennedy had a desk for 47 years.

Kennedy was known during his career as a liberal partisan, but the president said Republicans also knew him as “someone who was willing to take half a loaf” and then endure the anger of supporters who had wanted him to hold out for more.

Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, who is on the institute’s board of directors with former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said he often had “fiery discussions” with Kennedy. He reflected on working with Mr. Kennedy on an immigration bill that was defeated on a procedural vote in 2007, telling him, “Ted, every time I work with you, I get in trouble.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Kennedy “treated me like a little brother” when he first arrived in the Senate in 1973, calling him a master at fostering mutual respect.

“All politics is personal,” Mr. Biden said. “No one in my life understood that better than Ted Kennedy.”

In January 2008 Mr. Kennedy’s endorsement of Mr. Obama for president was viewed as a major step in helping Mr. Obama to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“I owe him a lot,” Mr. Obama said.

Speaking of Kennedy’s long friendship and legislative partnership with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, Mr. Obama said, “We can fight on almost everything. But we can come together on some things. And those ‘some things’ can mean everything to some people.”

Kennedy worked with Mr. Hatch on landmark legislation for children’s health insurance. He was also a longtime proponent of universal health care; Obamacare became law the year after he died.

⦁ This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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