Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Dead At 88, Knew How To Work Across The Aisle

Friends Orrin Hatch And Ted Kennedy

The nation discovered late this afternoon that former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented Utah for more than four decades, died at the age of 88.

The way he governed and worked while in office gets a needed underscoring at this moment on my blog as his life is reflected upon.

There is no doubt that he was a conservative on most economic and social issues. But he also well understood that the Senate must operate and move forward, as well as the nation. So with that basic understanding, he worked with Democratic members of the body to marshall votes on topics from stem cell research, rights for people with disabilities, and expanding children’s health insurance. I recall him always being a friend to the Lion of the Senate, and my personal favorite, Edward Kennedy.

It was that bipartisan nature from Hatch, and the poisonous blowback from harsh conservatives who opposed crossing the aisle, that prompted me to write in 2012 the following.

This is more evidence of what is wrong with the Republican Party, and American politics.

The conservatives within the GOP are so ideologically driven, and so blinded by the purity test, along with the lack of ability to understand why compromise is the meat and potatoes of politics, that they willingly and recklessly drive off over the cliff.

Senator Hatch is conservative, and yet reasonable and mindful of the role elected officials must undertake to ensure that government can govern!  That is what teabaggers can not grasp, have no interest in understanding, and why they are a most destructive element in this nation today.

As a liberal, I must say I respect Hatch.  I do not always agree with him, and often chafe at his words and votes.  But I can see his larger interest in making sure government works, and that is why I could sit down with him and work out a deal if I were a member of the senate.  We need more folks who are willing to talk, and fewer that want to lob political bombs.

The Senate could use several more members who, like Hatch, knew the art of governing is partly done with the friendships and bonds of respect made off the chamber floor.

And so it goes.

Kennedy Election Loss, Heavy Hearts For Believers In Camelot


The election loss last night in Massachusetts for Joseph Kennedy III was more than just a political happening.  For many who have journeyed in spirit and through history with this famous family, in good times and bad, it was far more than just a campaign loss.  It was as if a part of our larger family had been impacted with a major setback.

I never shook a hand of a Kennedy at a whistle-stop or was able to stand in the back row at a campaign rally for anyone with the famous Irish name, and yet I was always able to feel like a part of the show,, the drama, the humor and broad, beaming smiles.  After all, their politics was mine, too.  Liberal Democratic values.

And the family knew precisely what they were fighting for, as they had also experienced it in their own generations and wanted the government to even the playing field for all the ones yet to come up from hardship–no matter how that hardship manifested itself. I have read the books of this family since high school and recall a term that almost punched from the pages when reading of immigrants packed on “coffin ships”.  It was an image from my teenage years that speaks to the hopes immigrants had for their new home, and the risks they took to reach it.

That is how the Kennedy family made their way to these shores, and as we know in three generations Jack Kennedy would be sworn into the presidency of our country.  What has always alerted me to the family’s pull on the nation was, following the assassination in 1963, a landslide proportion of citizens told pollsters they had voted for Kennedy in 1960.  But we know that 1960 was a squeaker election outcome.  Yes, some of the responses after Kennedy’s death was due to national grieving, but let us be clear about another fact. Politics did not always matter as the Kennedy family had passed above being just a partisan name.   They were a part of the larger family for millions in the nation.

The tales of Camelot and the beautiful and handsome faces of generations of Kennedys have left their mark on the hearts and minds of millions of my fellow citizens.  Their fame and feats have been the stuff of headlines and history, their times of crisis and funerals have showcased family solidarity and steadfastness.  The family of doers and dreamers also faced frailties and human shortcomings, which also made the headlines, and in the end, proved how very much they were like every other family in America.

So yes, today there is a real sadness in the nation among those who still know the value of history and nostalgic touchstones.  Our nation needs to have those moments from history that still evoke passion and energy and bring forth the best of us.  The Kennedy family and Camelot was such a marker.

We still love them.




Humphrey’s History Video: Green Bay Packers And Ted Kennedy

During Wisconsin’s Stay At Home order, so to combat COVID-19, I am recording a series of 60-second grand stories from history.  Today I tell a story of the Green Bay Packers and Ted Kennedy which will bring a smile.

And I nail this video in precisely 60 seconds!  That makes former radio guys smile…..


Senator Ted Kennedy’s Wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Writes About John McCain

Senator John McCain and Senator Ted Kennedy were very close friends.  John died 9 years to the day as his close friend Ted, and of the same type of brain cancer.

Today Victoria Reggie Kennedy wrote an article for the Boston Globe.  It was especially well done and as such is reprinted in full.

John McCain was a warrior, a patriot, and a man of immeasurable courage. What a privilege it was to know him.

An unabashed conservative who relished the opportunity to do battle against his more liberal Democratic colleagues, he was also a willing and able legislative negotiator, unafraid to buck his own party to achieve a goal he thought important. Because of his uncompromising love of country, John was able to be a dealmaker, a true legislator, as he fought for a more perfect union and to advance policies for the public good. He was the maverick who refused to be boxed into a political position merely for the sake of party. For him, it was always country first.

I first met John through my late husband, Senator Edward Kennedy. Over the years, John and Ted became good friends, but, as they both loved to say, they had not been instant friends.

Indeed, I recall a moment on the floor of the US Senate in the early 1990s when John and Ted found themselves on opposite sides of an issue. Ted had just been recognized to speak when McCain burst out of the Republican cloakroom and charged onto the floor. Teddy and John then got into a tense, but private, verbal exchange off the floor.

In an odd way, it was perhaps that heat that began a thaw in their relationship. As those two old bulls walked off the Senate floor, they patted each other on the back and started to laugh. “That was really something,” one of them said. “Pretty good,” the other retorted. In that moment, all tension dissipated, and the seeds of a friendship were sown.

As Teddy used to say, John “took issues seriously, but never took himself too seriously.” His laughter could fill a room, or the entire Senate chamber. He could lose his temper, but afterwards, he always cooled off and attended to the enduring bonds of friendship. Above all, he believed in solving problems, not exploiting them — in charting a way forward wherever possible.

Whether they were on opposite sides of an issue and engaged in spirited combat or working together on the same side, John and Ted respected each other. As John once said, if you’re going to like someone, you have to respect them first. And as he and Ted grew to respect, trust, and like each other, they were able to accomplish important things.

In one memorable moment during an Armed Services Committee hearing on torture, Ted’s allotted time was up before he was able to complete his questioning of a witness. John was up next and, seamlessly, it seemed, took Ted’s notes and completed the questioning. At that moment, the nation saw how much more was possible when senators worked together, keeping the nation’s interests in mind without worrying about who got the credit.

John and Ted also worked together on immigration, and each lamented the failure of Congress to find sufficient common ground to support a comprehensive proposal for reform. They shared a commitment to campaign finance reform as well. Ted was proud to sign on to the McCain-Feingold bill that ultimately became law and earned for John, an Arizona Republican, and Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, the 1999 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

John loved the Senate and believed in its power to impact lives in a positive way. And he was unafraid, even in his last months, to stand up for a return to comity and decency and regular order. Indeed, he declared from the floor of the Senate that the proudest and most satisfying moments of his career were when he worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the great challenges facing our nation.

As we all know, John’s willingness to stand up for what was right was not confined to his work in the Senate. As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, that son of a Navy admiral denied his captors the opportunity to use him as a pawn for propaganda by courageously refusing to be released earlier than his peers. Because he took that stand, John was brutalized in captivity for more than five years, nearly half of which were in solitary confinement.

But doing the right thing, and not the expedient one, was a hallmark of John’s life and career. As the nominee of his party in the heat of a presidential campaign, he demonstrated his character yet again by rebuking a supporter who assailed the integrity and patriotism of his political opponent, Barack Obama. How much we miss that kind of honesty today, and how much we miss the man who showed such valor and demanded that kind of decency.

When he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same dreadful disease that took my husband’s life, John reacted to the news exactly as Teddy had — no self-pity, only concern for his family and a renewed drive to complete his work. In his reaction to adversity, we again saw the true mettle of the man.

John’s example summons us, in his memory and for the sake of our democracy, to live up to what is best in ourselves and to honor what is best in others. In word and deed, he taught us to be valiant in the truest sense — faithful to our ideals and principles, but never demonizing those who differ, always remembering that in the next battle, they could be on our side.

I think now of what he said in his eulogy for Ted: “We disagreed on most issues, but I admired his passion for his convictions, his patience with the hard and sometimes dull work of legislating, and his uncanny sense for when differences could be bridged and his cause advanced by degrees.

“He was a fierce advocate, and no senator would oppose him in a debate without at least a little trepidation, often more than a little. We all listened to him, of course. He was hard to ignore. When we agreed on an issue and worked together to make a little progress for the country on an important issue, he was the best ally you could have.”

Those words honored Ted Kennedy, but they also perfectly describe John McCain himself. Even if we disagreed with him on some issues, even some big issues, we know in our hearts that he has left us just when we most need his kind of leadership — a leadership of strength, decency, and unbending bravery.

John McCain was a great hero, a great senator, and a great American. He was my friend, and I will miss him, profoundly.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, an attorney, is cofounder and president of the board of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s Home On Market—-For $22 Million

Gorgeous home.

But out of my price range.

A sprawling Georgetown estate that was once home to Sen. Ted Kennedy is coming on the market for $22 million.

Mr. Kennedy and his first wife, Joan Kennedy, rented the property, which is located in the East Village area of Georgetown, some time after his election to the Senate in the 1960s, according to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and reports from the time. The home was formerly part of the neighboring Evermay Estate, a historic Georgetown property which sold for $22 million in 2011 to biotech executives Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno.

The current owner of Mr. Kennedy’s onetime home is Cathy Brentzel, a former securities attorney, who bought the home with her family in 2008 for $11.8 million, property records show. Ms. Brentzel said she is selling the property, which has been shopped off-market several times in the last few years, to be closer to her 15-year-old daughter, who is attending boarding school in Switzerland.

The original Edwardian-style home dates back to 1887, but an addition was added in the 1950s, bringing the home to around 10,000 square feet. More recently, a previous owner renovated the home to better blend the older portion with the addition. The interior of the home was demolished and taken down to the studs, while new structural support, plumbing and electric wiring was installed.

Vicki Kennedy Finds Her Way Back In Life

The wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, is making her comeback into life eight years after the death of the man known as the Lion of the Senate.

In 2015, she returned to work at a law firm after a nearly 20-year hiatus, renewing a career she left to avoid the appearance of conflicts with her husband’s Senate work. As a senior counsel in the corporate practice group at Greenberg Traurig, an international firm she had worked for in the 1990s, she advises business clients, while shuffling between the law firm’s Boston and Washington, D.C., offices. It’s the kind of legal work that generally stays out of public view, which seems to fit a lawyer comfortable advocating for a client or a cause, but who is reluctant to talk publicly about herself.

“I think she may be one of the better-kept secrets,” said Jeri Asher, cofounder and executive vice president of Jibo Inc., a robotics company Kennedy represents. “In Boston it takes people a while when they know you in one role to recontextualize you in another. I can see there would be a little transition, and then people rediscovering Vicki completely on her own merits.

In Ted Kennedy’s absence, Vicki Kennedy has remained active in civic life. She serves on boards for charities, such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Most prominently, she is president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, a kind of classroom in governance and homage to American democracy next to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Biden, who thinks of Vicki Kennedy “like a sister,” said she has an abiding personal commitment to the institute, which Biden illustrated with a story:

Among the thousands of condolences Biden received after the death of his son, Beau, in 2015, one of his most treasured came from Vicki Kennedy, Biden said.

In her note, Vicki recalled that every time Ted Kennedy would feel down, he’d reread a letter his father, US Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., had written to a friend about losing his son Joe Jr. in World War II. Vicki sent Biden a copy of the elder Kennedy’s letter.

“He said, ‘I realize I could make no sense of why this happened,’ ” Biden recalled, paraphrasing Joe Sr.’s letter. “ ‘Then one day, because life has to continue to be lived, I thought to myself, what would Joe do if he were still alive? And decided to devote my life to doing what he would have done.’ ”

Notable Tombstones From Arlington Cemetery

Just a few of the countless tombstones that deserve recognition to be found at Arlington National Cemetery.

Charles Peter L’Enfant.

Senator Ted Kennedy.

Former justices and family of the Supreme Court

Senator Ted Kennedy Still Touches Our Political Soul

My political hero, Senator Ted Kennedy, passed away on this date in 2009.  He was 77 years old.

Today Caffeinated Politics pays tribute to the man with a portion of his 1980 Democratic convention speech which electrified the party and a young man from Hancock.