Historic Whispers: Milestones in Ted Kennedy's Career

Whispers has covered Kennedy throughout his career.

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When Ted Kennedy was elected to the senate in 1962 he arrived in Washington overshadowed by his older brothers: President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. In the 46 years since, he endured their tragic deaths and created a legacy of his own. "The name Edward Kennedy, who is 36, is expected to be heard often in years ahead," predicted Whispers in 1968, after the assassination of brother, Bobby. His name often appeared in the Washington Whispers column as a potential presidential candidate. And Kennedy did run in the primaries against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In more recent years, Whispers reported on how Kennedy came "roaring back" from brain surgery and on his speech last summer at the Democratic convention.

  • Edward M. Kennedy, the President's brother and newly elected Senator from Massachusetts, is reported to be seeking a place on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Some Senate leaders hope that the President can explain to his brother that the Foreign Relations Committee is not ordinarily open to newcomers. (Dec. 10, 1962)
    • Edward Kennedy, as new Senator from Massachusetts, already is pointing with pride to the wide range of contracts and projects that he is proving able to line up in Washington for his home state. The youngest Kennedy has promised that his voice would be heard in Washington. (Dec. 31, 1962)
      • Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts must seek re-election in November, 1964, adding uncertainty to reports that Attorney General Robert Kennedy might consider running for governor in that state. (Dec. 9, 1963)
        • Senator Edward Kennedy, of Massachusetts, now is left to carry on the Kennedy family tradition for public service. The Massachusetts Senator finds that his name is being mentioned for No. 2 spot on a ticket headed in November by Hubert Humphrey. The name of Edward Kennedy, who is 36, is expected to be heard often in years ahead. (June 17, 1968)
          • Of the future of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a Republican Senator observes: "There is no place for Edward Kennedy to go except up to the Presidency. He can wait eight or 12 years. Eventually, I can see a knock-down, drag-out fight between Teddy and Bob Finch [the new Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and a California Republican]." (Jan. 27, 1969)
            • President Nixon is reported to have commented that Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts at this time "is running, not jogging," for the Presidency in 1972. (Feb. 10, 1969)
              • The case of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts almost eclipsed Apollo 11 in conversations in congressional cloakrooms. (Aug. 4, 1969)
                • Since the Martha's Vineyard episode, Senator Edward M. Kennedy no longer is a star fund-raiser for the Democrats. He still is in demand for party rallies but, as one friend explained, "does not want to be involved" in fund-raising dinners. (Sept. 1, 1969)
                  • The political standing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has been so damaged by the accident that resulted in the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne that a number of Democratic politicians in his home State believe he may be defeated in 1970. Some observers even speculate that the Senator may yet decide not to seek re-election. (Sept. 15, 1969)
                    • A draft Kennedy movement in Florida by former Carter campaigners promises trouble for the President. He still is expected to win the Democratic backing, but a close call would be embarrassing, say party leaders. (April 30, 1979)
                      • Why Carter's staff finds it impossible to stop worrying about Ted Kennedy: The demand for "Kennedy for President" buttons was so great by a group of Midwestern United Auto Workers members visiting Washington in late April that the supply was quickly exhausted. (May 7, 1979)
                        • No matter what friendly gestures Ted Kennedy makes toward Jimmy Carter at the conclusion of the Democratic convention, intimates say he'll campaign no harder for the President this fall than Ronald Reagan did for Gerald Ford four years ago. Instead, the senator is expected to concentrate on helping re-elect liberal members of Congress who backed him. (Aug. 18, 1980)
                          • Carter wasn't the only target of wrath for Ted Kennedy's loyal followers after the Democratic convention. Some of the senator's aides already are plotting to get even with Democratic members of Congress who urged Kennedy to get into the presidential race, then were nowhere to be found when he needed backers. (Aug. 25, 1980)
                            • That free health care for congressmen, mentioned by Kennedy in his convention address, it turns out, costs taxpayers for than $500,000 a year. Among services available: A complete medical staff, a pharmacist who dispenses free prescriptions, a fully equipped lab and emergency equipment at three locations in the Capitol. (Aug. 25, 1980)
                              • Some of Ronald Reagan's advisers are proposing suitable retaliation for Carter's use of old Reagan quotes to attack the GOP nominee: Run television commercials of primary-campaign speeches by Senator Ted Kennedy attacking the President's economic policies. (Sept. 15, 1980)
                                • The Senate's new Republican bosses lost no time in letting Ted Kennedy know what it really means to be in the minority. Kennedy has been evicted from the spacious quarters he occupied across the hall from the Judiciary Committee that he used to head. Hi s new digs: A distant suite formerly used by defeated Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia. (Feb. 9, 1981)
                                  • Friends of Ted and Joan Kennedy were not surprised by their announcement of plans to divorce after 22 years of marriage. In fact, many applauded the timing—reasoning that public interest in the pair's stormy relationship will die down before 1984, when Kennedy is expected to make another run for President. (Feb. 2, 1981)
                                    • Ted Kennedy as a compromise choice for President if the Democratic convention deadlocks? Forget it, say political experts. They note that the odds against this happening are so high that Kennedy himself isn't making the slightest effort to position himself for such a draft. (March 19, 1984)
                                      • In six months, almost a third of U.S. Senators have put up custom home pages on the World Wide Web, bringing the total number of Web sites to 90. Last week 79-year-old Robert Byrd of West Virginia became the latest to go online. "If Senator Byrd's doing it, you know it's got to be ingrained," said one Senate staffer. According to Internet researchers at Web21, the home pages with the most hits belong to Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts , Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska , and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain's site features a pig pushing a stack of money and pulling a banner that reads: "Pork Barreling." In a sample of 100,000 Internet users, more than half of the senatorial sites received no hits at all last month. In fact, the entire www.senate.gov page drew only about .0024 percent of total Web traffic. By comparison the ESPN sports network site got 155 times more traffic than all Senate sites combined. (Oct. 13, 1997)
                                        • 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 pus h 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 . (June 27, 2008 )
                                          • In advance of Sen. Ted Kennedy's trip to the floor of the Democratic National Convention Monday night, fellow Sen. Chuck Schumer said he holds out hope that the ailing Massachusetts political giant will make a return to the Senate floor next month. "There's a real chance," says Schumer, just coming from a breakfast with the New York delegation that featured Sen. Hillary Clinton. "He's doing great. It's a miracle — but a miracle we very much need," he told our Liz Halloran. Kennedy, who is suffering from brain cancer, will be honored tonight at the convention. Kennedy is in Denver , but it's not known whether he will take the stage, where his niece, Caroline, will introduce a video tribute to her uncle. ( August 25, 2008)
                                          • Illustration by Joe Ciardiello for USN&WR

                                            View photos of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

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