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Republicans join Democrats in mourning Kennedy

By Glen Johnson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 26 2009 10:15 a.m. MDT

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., talks with President Ronald Reagan, left, on June 24, 1985, as they look over an American Eagle that graced President John F. Kennedy's desk during an event for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at McLean, Va..

Charles Tasnadi, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BOSTON — 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 and the Democratic Party following his death Tuesday.

President Barack Obama led the Democrats, saying: "His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education's promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just — including myself."

Former President George H.W. Bush spoke for his son, former President George W. Bush, in expressing 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," said a statement issued by the elder Bush.

"Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the U.S. Senate — a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body's history," he said.

The widow of another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, echoed those sentiments.

"Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another," Nancy Reagan said in a statement from Los Angeles. "In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend."

Her husband died in June 2004 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

For the governor of her home state, the loss was personal.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose wife, Maria Shriver, was Kennedy's niece, came to politics after careers as a bodybuilder and actor and credited Kennedy with helping him in his current role.

"I have personally benefited and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well," the governor said in a statement. "Teddy taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on."

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."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 GOP presidential contender, recalled losing to Kennedy in a Senate race. Nonetheless, the two joined forces in 2006 to help pass a universal health insurance law in Massachusetts.

"He was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary," Romney said.

The Senate's top Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised that Congress, while mourning Kennedy's loss, would renew the push for the cause of Kennedy's life — health care reform.

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