Sen. Hatch Remembers His Friend Ted Kennedy

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Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a close friend of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, says they collaborated on a lot of significant legislation through the years. Hatch says though he and Kennedy disagreed and fought, they always laughed about it afterward.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Senator Edward Kennedy, who died last night, is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday. Earlier that day, his funeral Mass will be held in Boston, where President Obama will speak. Kennedy left an indelible mark on the Senate and the country. He was both a passionate advocate of liberal causes and a pragmatic architect of bipartisan compromises. He expressed ideas, and he got things done.

SIEGEL: We're going to begin this hour by remembering Ted Kennedy with the help of someone who got things done with him, working across the aisle - a Republican senator who said he came to Washington more than 30 years ago with one goal: to fight Ted Kennedy.

BLOCK: Orrin Hatch of Utah would go on to become one of Ted Kennedy's closest friends and a key ally in the Senate. Senator Hatch joins us from his office in Salt Lake City. And Senator Hatch, I'm sure this must be a tough day for you. Thanks for being with us.

Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): Well, it is a tough day because he - he is a very dear friend and his wife, Vicki, you know, I lived through all those years. And I have to say that we became very dear friends. That doesn't mean we didn't fight each other. We fought each other like tooth and tongue but afterwards, we'd put our arms around each other and laugh about it. And we passed a lot of very important legislation together, and I will greatly miss him.

BLOCK: There's a great story, Senator Hatch, of a time when you were working with Senator Kennedy on the children's health bill and to try to twist your arm a bit, he had his chief of staff serenade you with a patriotic song that you had written.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: He did that all the time.

BLOCK: Oh, not just once.

Sen. HATCH: He did that all the time, you know, and I'd kind of start laughing - get a kick out of it. Nick Littlefield was a Broadway singer and the…

BLOCK: This is the chief of staff.

Sen. HATCH: Yeah. It was - he was his chief of staff and a wonderful guy, and we're friends to this day. In fact, I'm friends with a lot of his staff members that I care a great deal for even though we'd probably differ widely ideologically, but yeah…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: …he did a lot of great things, and we tried to respond in kind.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. What would you come back at him with?

Sen. HATCH: Oh, there were things. Usually, I'd be giving him a rough time, and he always enjoyed that. One of the…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: …one of the most memorable times was my former chief of staff was the Mormon mission president, over 200 young missionaries in Boston. And he called me and said, you - could you get - would you come up and speak to my missionaries? And I said, well, sure I'll do it for you. He said can I ask you another favor? And I said, sure. He said, would you ask Ted Kennedy to come?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: And I said, well, OK. I said, I don't know if he will. And then he said, can I ask one other favor? I said, my gosh, what else do you want?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: And he said, would you ask Ted Kennedy to get Faneuil Hall for the meeting? I said, oh my goodness. I said that's asking quite a bit. But I said I'd ask. So, I did and Teddy, I think, had had a couple of highballs that night. And he was in a great mood and finally I said Teddy, I said, I have a favor to ask of you. He says, done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: I said well, let me tell you what it is first. I said, would you be willing - you remember Frank Madsen, my administrative assistant? He said, oh yeah, nice guy, nice guy. I said, well, he'd like you and me to speak to his 200 Mormon missionaries. He's the new Mormon mission president in Boston, Massachusetts. He said, my hometown. I said, yeah. He said sure, done. And then I said, well, could I ask one other favor? He said, what's that? I said, he would like you to get Faneuil Hall for the meeting. He says, done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: So the next day…

BLOCK: Just like that.

Sen. HATCH: …I wrote this letter to him and I caught him in the hallway of - this - holding the letter with both hands and his hands were shaking. And he looked at me and he said, Orrin, he said, what else did I agree to last night? I said, this is only letter number one and he went, ah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. HATCH: It was just comical and funny, I mean, it was wonderful.

BLOCK: Senator Hatch, we have a song here that I'd like to play a bit of for you. This is singer Tony Middleton…

Sen. HATCH: Oh, yeah.

BLOCK: …and you know what's coming. This is a song that you wrote for Senator Kennedy just after his cancer was diagnosed.

(Soundbite of song, "Headed Home")

Mr. TONY MIDDLETON (Singer): (Singing) Just honor him. Honor him, an honoring of despair. We shall not crash, America.

BLOCK: What did Ted Kennedy say when he heard this song that you had written for him?

Sen. HATCH: Oh, he loved it. The inspiration came - to call the song, "Headed Home," meaning headed home to the Senate, hoping he'd get back, you know. He called me and said oh, this is great. This is just wonderful, I really appreciate. I said, hope you didn't misconstrue it. He said, no, no. He said, I got the whole picture. He said it was just wonderful. I just hope it's a good enough tribute to my friend because I loved Ted Kennedy and I love Vicki Kennedy, and I love that whole family. That family has given so much to this country, and I just want everybody to know that they need to be revered. That family has gone through all kinds of travail and difficulties. Ted went through all kinds of travail and difficulties, but we've got to look at the good things. And I can tell you right now, that's a family that's given a great deal to this country, and they deserve a lot of credit.

(Soundbite of song, "Headed Home")

Mr. HATCH: (Singing) We're headed home at last. We're headed home at last.

BLOCK: Well, Senator Hatch, thank you very much.

Sen. HATCH: Thank you, it's nice to be with you.

BLOCK: That's Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, with his memories of his close friend Ted Kennedy. And at our Web site, npr.org, you can find the entire song "Headed Home," Senator Hatch's tribute to Senator Kennedy.

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