Andrea Mitchell Wistfully Yearns for Ted Kennedy's Presence In Passing Liberal Legislation

On Friday's edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, Mitchell brought on the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos to pine for the widow of Ted Kennedy, Vicki, to challenge Republican Scott Brown for the Massachusetts Senate seat, as well as imagine how effective the liberal "lion" would be in championing health care and unemployment extension legislation if he were still around today.

A wistful Mitchell remarked of the the late Senator: "It seems as though his legacy only grows in contrast to how low, what low regard the Senate is now held because of the gridlock and the, the sort of petty differences." Mitchell then set up the Globe's editorial page editor as she questioned if Kennedy "were trying to pull things together politically today, if we were blessed by his presence...do you think it would still be the passion for health care, or would he be looking to the larger economic issues?" To which Canellos remembered fondly: "When it comes to unemployment, I mean you can easily hear him...thundering against those who would deny unemployment to people who have been suffering." [audio available here]

The following is the full exchange as it was aired on the August 20 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Next week will mark the first anniversary of the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. There is increasing talk in political circles about whether his wife Vicki will enter politics in Massachusetts. Peter Canellos is the Boston Globe editorial page editor and a columnist and author of Last Lion: The fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, now out in paperback. Peter thanks so much for joining us. A year later, what a change in Massachusetts politics. And we've seen also the pressure on Vicki Kennedy, I guess Democrats are looking for anybody to go up against the very popular political figure there, Scott Brown.

PETER CANELLOS, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yeah. I think that's true. And I think there's the feeling that the state has lost a lot with the Kennedy franchise kind of sidelined. And so it's both a desire to have a good candidate against Scott Brown but also a desire to kind of rekindle the Kennedy mystique.

MITCHELL: What is happening with the other members of the family and whether or not Joe Kennedy or, or any of his offspring might also be willing to get back into politics?

CANELLOS: Well I think some of his offspring will get involved in politics but not run for the Senate. They would probably run for the House.

MITCHELL: Right.

CANELLOS: He has two 28-year-old sons. Whether he will run, whether Vicki will run, it's all a matter of speculation right now. And they're, they're all downplaying it. So I would say that it's probably more likely than not that none of the Kennedys will run. But, but nonetheless, as long as that possibility is out there, people are gonna cling to it.

MITCHELL: Well one of the things that she said, that Vicki said to the Globe in an interview about this anniversary is, "My heart is so heavy. I like to just keep busy and keep moving on. And that's why it's been great to kind of get around. And when people honor Teddy, to be there, to always sort of look at it, from his point of view, the future, and to try to make a positive difference going forward. But when you get into that level of really thinking about, really living his life, that's a step that's just too hard. That's too hard." Thinking about trying to step into a campaign and the Senate seat. That is different from going and representing him and speaking about his legacy.

CANELLOS: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, right now she's kind of a beloved figure, and you know, people's, you know, grief over, over his loss is sort of translated into kindness towards her. As soon as she runs for the Senate, you know, she'll be hammered on the issues. You know she'll have challengers. It will, will be very, very tough for her. So she has to be emotionally ready. And it doesn't sound at all like she is right now.

MITCHELL: And in thinking back over this past year, and we were up there in Hyannis a year ago and went through all of that with that extraordinary funeral and the procession and coming back to the burial at Arlington, it seems as though his legacy only grows in contrast to how low, what low regard the Senate is now held because of the gridlock and the, the sort of petty differences.

CANELLOS: Yeah. I agree. And I think they miss, they miss him a lot in the Senate. I mean, he was a great sort of deal maker. And that's, that's precisely what they've missed in the last year.

MITCHELL: One of the things that back in the, in the day when he was in the Senate really actively working with Republicans, if you recall back when Dan Quayle and Ted Kennedy were working on unemployment legislation together. That doesn't happen these days.

CANELLOS: Yeah. It really doesn't happen these days. I think people were partly drawn to kind of the Camelot mystique in him, but then they were totally taken by him. He was very gregarious but he was an extraordinary hard worker and I think he, he sort of kept them honest in a way.

MITCHELL: And if, if he were trying to pull things together politically today, if we were blessed by his presence, what would be his focus? Do you think it would still be the passion for health care, or would he be looking to the larger economic issues?

CANELLOS: Yeah I think a little of both. He certainly would be working to shore up the health care achievement and would be out there promoting it probable more aggressively than the Democrats are right now. But I think when it comes to, to unemployment, I mean you can easily hear him, you know, thundering against those who would deny unemployment to people who have been suffering. You know he would have, he knows sort of, he knew when to make things a political issue. And, and for example, the unemployment insurance extension would have been one that he would, you know, thunder about at a, in a partisan way. But then when it came to sort of cutting a deal to get it done, he would be willing to sort of take half a loaf rather than nothing.

MITCHELL: Well when you think that it was only two years ago that he came out of a hospital bed to make that farewell speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver, and then a year ago we were in, in Hyannis and in Boston, of course, for the funeral. Peter Canellos, thank you very much. This is a figure who becomes larger even after life, as large as he was in life. Thank you, Peter.

CANELLOS: Thank you, Andrea.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.