Democratic colleagues, GOP rivals, world leaders pay respects to Kennedy
Newsweek's Ted Kennedy coverage
updated 2 hours, 26 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a Democrat's Democrat, so much so that he became a rallying point for those in his party and an object of derision for Republican opponents.
Yet his affability and capability to span the partisan divide on an array of legislative matters prompted an outpouring of condolences from those in the GOP as well as the Democratic Party following his death Tuesday at age 77 from brain cancer.
"An important chapter in our history has come to an end," said President Barack Obama, who called Kennedy a colleague, counselor and friend and "the greatest United States senator of our time ."
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"Even though we knew this day was coming, we awaited it with no small amount of dread," Obama said, speaking outside a beach house where he's vacationing with his family on Martha's Vineyard. "For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was a defender of a dream."
Former President George H.W. Bush expressed sympathies from members of the Republican Party.
"While we didn't see eye to eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service," he said in a statement.
Bush's son, former President George W. Bush, said he was pleased to work with Kennedy on legislation for improving public schools, immigration rule and mental illness care.
"In a life filled with trials, Ted Kennedy never gave in to self-pity or despair," the younger Bush said.
'I will miss him'
The widow of another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, also ofered warm words.
"Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family," Nancy Reagan said in a statement from Los Angeles.
"But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another," she said, adding, "I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him."
Ronald Reagan died in June 2004 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., who ran for president against Obama, praised Kennedy's willingness to reach out to those who did not share all of his political convictions.
"Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day," McCain said.
The Senate will seem a "less interesting place in the knowledge that his booming voice, fueled by his passion for his convictions, will never encourage or assail or impress us again," McCain added.
Former Democratic President Bill Clinton called Kennedy "one of the most influential leaders of our time.
"Hillary and I will always be grateful for the many gestures of kindness and generosity he extended to us, for the concern he showed for all the children and grandchildren of the Kennedy clan, and for his devotion to all those in need whose lives were better because he stood up for them," Clinton said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose White House run was dealt a blow last year by Kennedy's endorsement of Obama, praised Kennedy for championing "women and families, health care, education, civil rights and the environment.
"His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans who are freer, healthier and more prosperous because of his efforts," she said. "As he said, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
'Best friend in the Senate'
For some members of Kennedy's own party, the loss was deeply personal.
"My heart and soul weeps at the loss of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd and Strom Thurmond were the only members of the Senate to have served longer than Kennedy, who had represented Massachusetts for more than 46 years.
"Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq," he added.
For the governor of California, Kennedy's death was a family matter.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose wife, Maria Shriver, was Kennedy's niece, said in a statement: "He was known to the world as the Lion of the Senate, a champion of social justice, and a political icon. Most importantly, he was the rock of our family: a loving husband, father, brother and uncle."
Kennedy’s death came just two weeks after that of Shriver’s mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, one of the senator’s siblings.
Vice President Joe Biden fought tears as he spoke about his friend and colleague of many decades in the Senate.
“I truly, truly am distressed by his passing,” Biden said. “Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. For 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and sitting next to him and being witness to history. ... He restored my sense of idealism.”
Former Vice President and ex-Sen. Al Gore called Kennedy “a champion for those Americans who had no voice — the sick, the disabled, the poor, the under-privileged.”
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John Boehner, the House Republican leader, said that he counted Kennedy as a friend despite being on the opposite side of the political divide.
"While there were few political issues on which he and I agreed, our relationship was never disagreeable, and was always marked by good humor, hard work, and a desire to find common ground," Boehner said.
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