Grown men wept on both sides of the political aisle Tuesday when word of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s illness hit the Senate, his political home of 46 years, where he has been known for a soft heart, a strong arm and a ready joke.
“I have described Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the Senate,” said presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, his eyes glistening and his voice thick.
“He remains the single most effective member of the Senate,” McCain said of his Democratic friend. “He is not reluctant to share the credit. And when it fails, he’s willing to take the blame. We will miss him for that and many other reasons.”
The normally voluble Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) choked up as he spoke. “He’s a strong guy. He has a great heart. We’re confident he’ll be back here,” he said, then abruptly strode away.
West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, 90, wept openly. “Ted, Ted, my dear friend, I love you and I miss you,” he grieved. “I thank God for you, Ted.”
Lawmakers took comfort in Kennedy’s scrappy spirit. “Sen. Kennedy is a real fighter – we all know that. I’m betting on Sen. Kennedy,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a cancer survivor.
Republicans may love to run against Kennedy as a liberal bogeyman, but he is personally widely popular.
“If you ask the 99 other senators to name the most powerful member, and then to name the most popular, Kennedy is the only one who would end up on both lists,” said Boston political consultant Michael Goldman.
One of his best pals is Utah Republican Orrin Hatch. “Ted and I have sparred a lot,” he said. “So I know firsthand what a formidable fighter he is.”
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, whose Democratic presidential bid enjoyed a big boost from Kennedy’s symbolism-laden endorsement, called the illness “grim news.”
“He has been there for the American people during some of our country’s most trying moments, and now that he’s facing his own, I ask all Americans to keep him in our thoughts and prayers,” Obama said.
(Continue reading: New York Daily News)
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