ILLUSTRATION BY JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WR
Memo to those who bought into the story line that Sen. Edward Kennedy's brain cancer was the beginning of the end of his life in politics: It wasn't. In fact, associates, friends, and even political foes say that Teddy has come roaring back, albeit from his Cape Cod residence, weighing in on key policy issues and keeping his staff hot on the trail of his own agenda.
"In some ways," says an associate, "it's like he's still here. His office is running, he's still putting out his agenda, his staff is going gangbusters, and he's managed to keep his control." Adds a top Republican who is often at odds with Kennedy: "We were all feeling pretty gloomy when the news of his brain cancer came out. But the whole mood around here has changed for the better."
Consider: With Massachusetts officials worried about receiving a Medicaid waiver needed for the state's universal healthcare program, Kennedy made calls last month to President Bush's team. The result: The money will most likely continue to flow. He's also calling lawmakers to push pet projects such as higher education funding and mental health legislation.
Here's more proof that Kennedy's on the mend after his June surgery: He may trump his September return to the Senate by helping to nominate Sen. Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in August in Denver.