Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee last year, today praised Senator Edward M. Kennedy's willingness to work with Republicans on issues facing the country.
"Ted Kennedy had this unique way of doing hand-to-hand combat on the floor of the Senate," McCain said on CNN. "And as soon as we stopped our speechmaking, he'd come over and put his arm around you and make everybody appreciate that we had our differences, politically, but personally we could be friends and work together as colleagues and friends for the good of the country."
"Probably the most overrated aspect of the United States Senate is that people keep their word," added McCain, who worked with Kennedy on immigration overhaul, education, and other issues. "Ted Kennedy always kept his word. He would keep his word to the point where he would vote against his positions in order to preserve a carefully crafted compromise."
McCain said that Kennedy's negotiating skill has been sorely missing on a health care overhaul, which has become a deeply divisive partisan issue.
Had Kennedy been on Capitol Hill the past few months, "I think we would have made great progress. I'm not positive that we -- obviously of the outcome, but I know there would have been serious negotiations. And so far, there really has not been serious negotiations, in all due respect," McCain said.
McCain concluded, "Well, there's one thing that I think that has epitomized the Kennedy family, and that is service the country, and a country above one's own self-interest. Ted Kennedy, I think, epitomized that service to the country. He had a very heavy burden of an incredible tradition to carry on. He shouldered it, he became an institution within an institution. And all of us will not only miss him, but perhaps maybe try to carry on his legacy of reaching across the aisle and getting things done for the American people. We need this now more than ever before."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.