CBS: Bob Shrum on Kennedy: ‘Most Effective and Significant Senator In The Last 50 Years’

Still Shot of Bob Shrum, May 19 On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to Democratic strategist Bob Shrum about Senator Ted Kennedy being hospitalized over the weekend and asked: "How important -- is there a way to measure this? Because everybody took a deep breath on Saturday and took a second to say, ‘oh, my gosh.’" Shrum responded: "I thought it was an incredible acknowledgment of the fact that this is probably the most effective and significant Senator in the last 50 years, one of the most significant in American history."

Shrum continued to lionize Kennedy: "...this is someone who literally has touched almost everybody's life in America. There isn't a bill for economic or social justice that doesn't bear his imprint. He's lived the Kennedy legacy, which we're all fascinated with, but he's vastly enlarged it." Smith followed up by describing how Kennedy even garnered respect from the Republican nominee:

We put a little bit of John McCain's statement up just a second ago. I want to put it up in full because this is really important. Here's a guy who should be his ideological opposite theoretically and this is what John McCain says: 'Senator Kennedy's role in the U.S. Senate cannot be overstated. He is a legendary lawmaker, and I have the highest respect for him.’

Finally, Shrum exclaimed that: "There are two things about Kennedy that are very interesting. It's always principled, it's never personal." Of course it was not personal when on May 10, 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Kennedy declared that: "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management - US management."

Prior to Smith’s interview with Shrum, correspondent Jeff Glor began the segment with a report in which he did suggest that Kennedy was a controversial figure: "The patriarch and lone surviving son of the American family is fiercely liberal and often controversial. No surprise it became front page news." However, that description of Kennedy was immediately followed by former DNC Chairman Steve Grossman proclaiming: "I mean the whole political world just stopped. And it wasn't just Democrats. It wasn't just people here in Massachusetts. You've heard all of the words that have come in from Republicans."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:04AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Senator Ted Kennedy remains hospitalized this morning in Boston after suffering a seizure on Saturday. "Early Show" National Correspondent Jeff Glor is at the Massachusetts General Hospital with more on that this morning. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF GLOR: Harry, good morning to you. We're told that Kennedy had a good night watching movies with family members, but after two nights in the hospital it is still not clear when he'll be released. The seizures that Kennedy suffered are tiny electrical storms in the brain. The trick is figuring out what set them off, says Mark Adelman, cardiologist at NYU.

MARK ADELMAN: There's probably a 50% chance at least that we're never going to know exactly what is underlying the seizure.

GLOR: If the Kennedy family knows, they're not saying. The whole clan has been to visit but they've released little information. The problems began Saturday morning, while Kennedy was with his beloved dogs outside the compound on Cape Cod. First taken to a local hospital he was medevaced to Boston's bigger Mass General for a battery of tests. Kennedy's had serious medical issues before, chronic back problems after a plane crashed more than 40 years ago, surgery last year to clear a badly blocked artery in his neck. The patriarch and lone surviving son of the American family is fiercely liberal and often controversial. No surprise it became front page news.

STEVE GROSSMAN: I mean the whole political world just stopped. And it wasn't just Democrats. It wasn't just people here in Massachusetts. You've heard all of the words that have come in from Republicans.

GLOR: John McCain called him a 'legendary lawmaker. I have the highest respect for him.' Now 76, Kennedy's maintained an aggressive schedule, campaigning hard most recently for the man McCain might face in November's presidential election, Barack Obama. Obama did speak on the phone with Kennedy yesterday and said he was surprised at how upbeat he sounded and that he expects Kennedy back on the Senate floor very soon. Harry.

SMITH: Jeff Glor in Boston this morning, thanks so much. Joining us is political consultant Bob Shrum, a long-time associate of Senator Kennedy and a close personal friend. Good morning Bob.

BOB SHRUM: Good morning, glad to be here.

SMITH: How worried were you on Saturday when you heard about this?

SHRUM: I was very worried at first and then as the afternoon went on and I heard that it had been a seizure, not a stroke, that he was sitting up and ordering food out from Legal Seafood, you know --

SMITH: All is right with the world.

SHRUM: And he's going to be there for tests. They have to figure out what caused it.

SMITH: Yeah. That he also watched the Red Sox game on Saturday night. How important -- is there a way to measure this? Because everybody took a deep breath on Saturday and took a second to say, 'oh, my gosh.'

SHRUM: I thought it was an incredible acknowledgment of the fact that this is probably the most effective and significant Senator in the last 50 years, one of the most significant in American history. I mean, if you go through the Voting Rights Act, South Africa sanctions, the minimum wage, the largest expansion of student loans in history, the list goes on and on and on, this is someone who literally has touched almost everybody's life in America. There isn't a bill for economic or social justice that doesn't bear his imprint. He's lived the Kennedy legacy, which we're all fascinated with, but he's vastly enlarged it.

SMITH: Yeah. We put a little bit of John McCain's statement up just a second ago. I want to put it up in full because this is really important. Here's a guy who should be his ideological opposite theoretically and this is what John McCain says: 'Senator Kennedy's role in the U.S. Senate cannot be overstated. He is a legendary lawmaker, and I have the highest respect for him. When we have worked together, he has been a skillful, fair and generous partner. I consider it a great privilege to call him my friend.'

SHRUM: Yeah. Well, you know, his passage of children's health care was done with Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah. He reaches across the aisle. And John McCain probably won't appreciate my saying this, but he and Ted Kennedy last year tried to reform the immigration laws in this country, which got McCain in a lot of trouble. There are two things about Kennedy that are very interesting. It's always principled, it's never personal. He was -- he fought with Ronald Reagan constantly, but he really liked Ronald Reagan, gave him credit for restoring the credibility and authority of the presidency. And when Ronald Reagan received the Congressional Gold Medal, Nancy Reagan asked that Senator Kennedy speak.

SMITH: That Ted Kennedy do it, yeah. Do you see him coming back to work?

SHRUM: Oh, yeah, I see him coming back to work and changing this country and helping to elect Barack Obama, as much as he likes John McCain.

SMITH: Bob Shrum, thanks for stopping in this morning. Do appreciate it.

SHRUM: Glad to be here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC