'The Lion' Remembered

News of the death of Senator Ted Kennedy from brain cancer Tuesday produced an outpouring of praise, including from long-time legislative friends and foes and media industry figures, who joined Wednesday in saluting him.

“The outpouring of love, gratitude, and fond memories to which we’ve all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives,” said President Obama. “His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just — including myself.”

The president said Kennedy’s public fight against the disease “has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you — and goodbye.”

Former Senate Commerce Committee chairman and presidential candidate John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested the Senator’s legacy would outshine that of his brothers.

“My friend, Ted Kennedy, was famous before he was accomplished. But by the end of his life he had become irreplaceable in the institution he loved and in the affections of its members. He grew up in the long shadow of his brothers, but found a way to be useful to his country in ways that will outlast their accomplishments,” he said. “Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer. Many will recall his convivial nature, his humor, his thoughtfulness.”

Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, praised his ability to seek consensus without compromising his principles. “Ted accomplished so much in his career because he was driven by his passion for justice for every citizen,” said Glickman, who in addition to serving in Congress was director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “He frequently found allies for his causes with some of his most ideologically opposite colleagues, yet he never compromised his ideals or his values.”

“Senator Kennedy’s legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy. More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them. And more Americans could be proud of their country.”

“Senator Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change,” said House speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Rooted in his deep patriotism, his abiding faith, and his deep concern for the least among us, no one has done more than Senator Kennedy to educate our children, care for our seniors, and ensure equality for all Americans.”

Kennedy was a backer of network neutrality, and took to YouTube early on to make a pitch for the policy.

He also pushed for regulations on advertising related to tobacco and drugs, both part of to his long-time interest in health care. There was something fitting in the fact that the current debate over health care reform, a debate Kennedy has lead for decades, was the top news story of the week, according to a Project for Excellence in Journalism weekly news summary.

He also championed campaign finance reform in 1973 that resulted in the creation of the FEC and contribution limits.

Kennedy also had numerous touchstone TV moments, including on C-SPAN as he fought passionately for health care reform and other social programs on the Senate floor, and for the boomer generation as the grieving figure in very public coverage of the deaths of his brothers.

Perhaps Kennedy’s most memorable TV moment came in a 1979 interview with Roger Mudd for a CBS special. His imprecise answer to the question of why he wanted to be president is widely thought to have contributed to his decline in the polls and eventual loss to Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.

My most memorable Kennedy TV moment was a couple decades back when I played football against him. It was at a Capitol Hill restaurant for a demonstration of an interactive game in which table-top devices were used to predict the outcome of plays on, I believe, a Monday Night Football game telecast. Kennedy was there, along with veteran Redskin quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgenson. I know I had a ball, and Kennedy certainly seemed to be enjoying the heated competition as well, moving easily from the world of touch football to full-contact, mirroring his growth from the younger Kennedy brother to one of the most effective full-contact legislators in Senate history.

But I digress.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.