Will Kennedy's Widow Succeed Him In The Senate?
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The legislative compromises that Pam Fessler discussed there grow out of a number of key partnerships that Senator Kennedy forged in Congress. But his most important partnership - professional, as well as personal - was with his wife of nearly two decades, Victoria Reggie Kennedy.
NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts is with us this morning.
Cokie, good morning.
ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Before we get to the Kennedys' relationship, who was she and how did she come into his life?
ROBERTS: Well, she came into his life as an intern, apparently meeting in the mailroom, something he doesn't remember. Remember, she's more than 20 years younger than Ted Kennedy was. They re-met at her parent's 40th wedding anniversary party. The families knew each other and it was 1991, a very tough year for him.
It was the year of the William Kennedy Smith charges and when he had to give that famous speech about his personal failings. So she came along at the right time in his life and he talked a lot about how she re-awakened something in him. What she did was love him and care for him and provide him a home, which was something that he had not really had even with all those houses.
INSKEEP: Okay. So did he change his life? Did he change his behavior because of her?
ROBERTS: I think so, and a lot of his friends very much think so, that he was, he calmed down, that all the sort of carousing and heavy drinking that had characterized a period of his life seemed to come to an end, and a real sense of happiness set in.
INSKEEP: Well that leads to another question I suppose, as you know from your own family experience, there are occasions where when a senator, a member of Congress dies the spouse is named or runs for the seat. Is there any possibility of that here?
ROBERTS: Well friends apparently are saying that she is not interested in that. But, you know I think once the ceremonies for him are over and - which will take a few days - and the serious politicking begins, that we might see some interest. Look, Vicki Kennedy is from a political family.
Her, the Reggie family has been in Louisiana politics for a long time. Her father backed John Kennedy in 1960, something that was not at all…
(Soundbite of laughter)
ROBERTS: …popular in Louisiana politics at the time. My father was probably the only other person who did, in the Democratic Party, back Jack Kennedy. And the Kennedy family, of course, doesn't forget that. And Vicki Kennedy is a lawyer. She's always been politically involved and politically very, very savvy. But she also knows a great deal about policy and has been, as you said earlier, his partner, his advisor particularly in this health care debate.
INSKEEP: Well just in a few seconds here, is she in some sense the person responsible for the Ted Kennedy that the world came to know in his later years as this white-haired eminence, this great legislative mechanic?
ROBERTS: Well, of course, he is responsible for that as well, and I would say his parents still remain responsible, but she certainly provided the kind of care and love and comfort that allowed him to emerge as the eminence that he became.
INSKEEP: That's NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.
Cokie, good to talk with you.
ROBERTS: Nice to talk to you Steve.
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