News that Ted Kennedy is seriously ill sent shock waves through the capital and the country yesterday.
Many think of him as the "liberal lion"--and that is true.
Less well known outside the beltway are his incredible instincts and skills for "cutting a deal."
I know the notion of liberals and conservatives finding a way to come together drives some people on the far right and left nuts but it is in fact how we make progress in a real world where there will always be liberals and conservatives--neither will ever score that knockout blow some of them believe can happen at the next election.
I was in a Senator's office last week talking to him about a very important piece of new legislation on health care. I asked him where Kennedy was on it--a key to its being able to move forward. The response was that Kennedy was thinking about just where the deal would be.
I have said before that health care reform will be very hard to do. Without Kennedy leading the way for conservatives and liberals finding the delicate balance, that will be so important, it will be even harder.
As David Broder pointed out this morning, it may be a McCain presidency that will need Kennedy the most for his skills at bringing together what would be a Democratic Congress and a Republican administration.
Everyone in this town has their Kennedy stories. My own favorite is a day some years ago when I was testifying before Senate HELP when he was chair. He had this elaborate introduction planned for me tied to how I was a former exec with a Mass company and a constituent. Of course he screwed up the pronunciation of my name--a constant Irish problem--and an extended interchange between he and Barbara Mikulski on correct pronunciation ensued. I will always appreciate that C-SPAN video tape.
Let's hope he continues to preside over that committee for many more years.
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