Robison: Ted Kennedy and bi-partisanship

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(HOST) In reflecting on the legacy of Ted Kennedy, commentator Olin Robison has been reminded that true bi-partisan cooperation in Washington takes serious commitment.

(ROBISON) It seems important that I confess right up front that I did not know Senator Kennedy personally.  I had met him but that isn’t the same as "knowing" him.  I have, over the years, known several of the personalities who have said flattering things about him over the last several days.  I did, as a political junkie, watch quite a bit of the television coverage a few days ago of the memorial service, and the funeral.

Here are some conclusions:

First, I was surprised, frankly, to learn what a profoundly decent and caring person he was.  That is most uncommon in Washington.

Next, he was a Kennedy through and through, by which I mean that he was a born campaigner.

Finally, listening to the many statements made by so many people left me thinking much about my childhood church in East Texas, so different from his and yet in so many ways so similar.

In that regard, the number one sense I kept returning to is the truly transformative nature of redemption.  In this case I mean the fundamental change in a person’s outlook and behavior.

There is a story that circulates in Washington every few years which is attributed to Harry Truman.  He is supposed to have said that when you first get to Washington you look around and say, "Wow! How did I get here?"  About 6 months later, so he said, you wonder how all  those other people got there.

I doubt seriously that Mr. Kennedy ever had such doubts.  Maybe, but not likely.  I doubt that such doubts ever crossed his mind, either before or after the "transformation".

It is also clear that he clearly understood that progress in Washington is almost always incremental;  almost never abrupt.  How else would one explain his friendship and long-term partnership with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  It would be a serious challenge to find two people in Washington more radically different politically than these two.  And yet they worked together for years on all sorts of things to the general benefit of the American people.

Would that it were more common.  It once was.  Back when Lyndon Johnson was the Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate, one of his closest friends both on and off the floor, was the colorful Republican Minority Leader, Everet Dirkson.

So rest in peace, Senator Kennedy.  You really did earn it.  Rest in peace.

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