The “Lion of the Senate” was known for tussling fearlessly with all comers. He wasn’t scared to take fights right to the top, as in his famous speech in 2007 at the National Press Club, challenging President George W. Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq.
Ted Kennedy rarely backed down, and least frequently from his Republican challengers. Conservatives frequently opposed Kennedy's initiatives, but as Republicans reflect on his legacy, their respect for the late senator is clear. One such Republican, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, joins us to share his thoughts. ...(click through for the full interview transcript)
Watch a video of Senator Ted Kennedy at the National Press Club in January 2007.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Joining us now is William Weld, former Governor of
Massachusetts. Republican, colleague, collaborator; and I think its fair to say someone who
tangled with Senator Edward Kennedy. Good Morning William Weld.
WILLIAM WELD: Hey John, Good to be with you.
HOCKENBERRY: It's great to be with you. You know, I have a real question,
listening to some of the eulogizing. Over the last few years, you know, Teddy Kennedy was
known in the 70's as a pretty arrogant fellow who botched his 1980 presidential campaign and
really was the rallying cry for the Reagan Republicans for the 1980's in their whole tax and
spend program. When did Teddy Kennedy earn the Republicans' respect and become this kind of
WELD: Oh, I think his career was not built in a day; it was built over years
and years of serious study of the issues in the Senate. I knew Ted Kennedy for forty years.
He was in the Senate already in his seat when I worked for Senator Jack Javits of New York in
the 60's. And I saw him more socially in the 70's out in Hickory Hill when I was down in
Washington working there.
HOCKENBERRY: That was Bobby Kennedy's place, right?
WELD: Yeah, but Teddy was there a lot.
HOCKENBERRY: Sure, sure.
WELD: And by the 80's we were both statewide figures in Massachusetts and
that's not that big a pond. So I would bump into him personally in Boston and Washington as
well as professionally. But ... I never did tangle with him. I found him the easiest guy in
the world to work with. He was absolutely without paranoia and he had the best staff on the
Hill for decades, and they always briefed him perfectly. So he was the one Senator, even when
I was at the criminal division of the Justice Department handling criminal investigations,
who would always meet me alone. He never had to have staff in the room to make sure
everything went OK and, 'how can we help, you know, we'll help the Justice Department here.'
Absolutely straight, absolutely professional. And then, 'How bout Southie, what do you hear
from the Cape? What's new in Western Mass.?' So we had a lot in common. I think probably the
relationship was not hurt by the fact that we never ran against each other ...
HOCKENBERRY: Probably not.
WELD: ... but that's not necessary.
HOCKENBERRY: All right, well, certainly one of the reasons conceivably, and
that can be our Takeaway there, of why he got so much done. Again, what you saw was what you
got with Teddy Kennedy, particularly if you were working.
WELD: Oh, completely. If you hear him giving a speech it was always obvious
that he meant what he said. The heart was connected to the head and it wasn't just a speech
that somebody had written for him. When you talk to him, there was no plexiglass shield
between you and him. Maybe he'd pause, maybe he'd grumble a little bit if he wasn't happy
with what was going on, but the conversation was absolutely natural and the humor would
always bubble to the surface. The humor would always relieve whatever the stress of the
different positions there was.
HOCKENBERRY: Well, which is why he'll be missed, that's for sure. William
Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts, thanks for being with us.