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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Following the Kennedy Funeral Procession to Arlington Cemetery.
Aired August 29, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Our John King is over there at Arlington National Cemetery right now. Have folks already gathered at the burial site, John, do you know?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is nobody from the official invited party, I was just told as of three minutes ago, Wolf is up there yet. It is a very sweltering day here of course. And there could be some people waiting nearby, but it is a very small group that has been invited up to the burial site. And most of them are in the motorcade.
I know a former long-time Kennedy staffer, who is up there handling the arrangements. And there's a few minutes - as of a few minutes ago, he said there is a press pool up there. They have been brought up there, but that none of the invited guests were there as yet.
I will tell you, though, just as you're seeing the remarkable crowd at the Capitol, not only the members of Congress, the House, and the Senate, and the staffers, but these people who have just decided to come get a glimpse of this day. You were just talking about the remarkable diversity of the crowd. We saw that in Boston. We are seeing it outside the Capitol. And we are seeing it as well here on a smaller scale, but still, a significant scale.
Several hundred people now, you know, Wolf, you're quite familiar with it. Anyone here in Washington, you come over the Memorial Bridge from the majestic Lincoln Memorial. You come around the rotary on the other side. and there's a cobblestone road that takes you up to the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. And there are several hundred people gathered on that pathway on the side of the road. There are security perimeters blocking it off. Several hundred people on each side, a few of them carrying signs, many of them have been waiting here now for three or four hours, because they came a bit early. And we are now running a bit late, but they are waiting patiently and quietly. And you see the scene playing out at the Capitol there, along the route all the way over to Arlington Cemetery here and across Memorial Bridge, where the senator will drive. And they're just waiting patiently. And they say they're here for any number of reasons.
Some came from Massachusetts, some are tourists, some are here in Washington who just wanted to say farewell to this man who for 47 years has been a legend here in Washington politics. And you see some of them there gathered along the edge. And that is the Memorial Bridge. You see the Lincoln Memorial. That is the Washington side of the Memorial Bridge. And if you just follow that road across, you come across the Potomac River to the Virginia side. There's a traffic circle, a rotary, Senator Kennedy would call it. That's what we called them in Boston.
And then you come up the cobblestone path to Arlington National Cemetery, where as we have been discussing, there will be a burial cemetery. Cardinal Meredith McCarrick of Washington is waiting on hand here at the cemetery. There will be some final prayers.
And Senator at a remarkable place. The hallowed ground of this cemetery right there, where his brother, the president, the late president is buried. Steps from that gravesite, Robert F. Kennedy is buried. And steps from Bobby's gravesite, Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the brothers, who redefined Massachusetts politics, and in many ways redefined national politics for the national 50 years, Ted Kennedy will take his place next to his two brothers in just a short time here.
It is a remarkable place, Arlington National Cemetery. If you've ever visited, you know that. If you've never visited, you should not just to see Senator Kennedy, but so many heroes buried in the ground. And it is waiting. And it's just a quiet in the air, Wolf and Anderson. and as I said, the people on the side of the road have been waiting patiently for hours. And they don't see them in any rush to leave.
BLITZER: And it's only appropriate, John as you know, that Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. will perform the burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, a very old and dear friend of Senator Kennedy. A really - a great leader of the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. for so many years, someone so prominent, and such a gracious person. All of us who know Cardinal McCarrick can testify to that.
We're told also, John, that there will be a simple 2.5 foot white cross and marble grave marker, which will be placed on Senator Kennedy's grave. That will be - those will be permanent. Very similar to what Bobby Kennedy has on his grave. The marker will simply say Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932-2009. It's fitting that it be simple, but it will endure.
KING: Sometimes less is more, Wolf. And if you have ever been up to that site, you do have the eternal flame, which has a grandness to it. But the overall site is actually quite simple. And there's great dignity in that. It brings down your spirits. You pause and reflect. And as you move from President Kennedy's grave site, to Senator Robert Kennedy's grave site, and now to Senator Edward Kennedy's grave site, there is dignity in the simplicity of it. Those aren't quite as eloquent words as I'd like to find at this moment.
But when you walk up there, it is a remarkable site. And as we have made note throughout the day, the senator used to come here quite frequently, not just on the anniversary of his brother's deaths, or on their birthdays, but he would sometimes come on his own. He would sometimes stop by after attending a funeral of someone from Massachusetts who was killed in Iraq or killed in Afghanistan. And he wound attend the funeral, comfort the widow and the family, and then take the steps up the hill to say hello. And obviously in a carefully scripted farewell, his final steps will put him exactly where he would want to be.
BLITZER: Yeah, it's not going to be very far from his two brothers.
Anderson, I just want to remind our viewers, this is the eternal flame...
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah.
BLITZER: ...that's always on at the burial at the gravesite of President Kennedy.
COOPER: John, do we know how long the service will be at Arlington?
KING: The service here is supposed to be quite brief. We are told that the cardinal will have his prayers, there could be some very other brief remarks. There's a fire truck making its way across the route. I'm sorry if it's drowning me out here, just pulling off the grounds of the cemetery right now.
We don't expect the burial ceremony to go on for more than several minutes. Prayers from the cardinal, perhaps some other brief remarks. We do know that in addition to the family, Vice President Biden will be on the grounds as well for that ceremony.
And I think another remarkable thing that is happening here, and we're using that word a lot today, is the commitment of the family and of the superintendent of the cemetery. It is closed right now. It is invitation only up there at that hallowed site, but at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, it will reopen. And anyone who wants to go up to see President Kennedy and the two senators Kennedy can go up and do that beginning at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: And John reported earlier, the last time this cemetery did a Saturday burial, Arlington National Cemetery, was immediately after 9/11 for some of the victims, military victims of 9/11.
Candy Crowley is up on Capitol Hill watching this. It's getting a very, very close to the arrival of the motorcade, Candy. I suspect you and some of the others there sense that imminent arrival.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're and we're hearing the same sort of sirens you are, but they seem to be unrelated to what's going on here. But someone came by not that long ago saying five minutes, five minutes. So five minutes tends to go to ten when you do things like this.
But yes . And there's -- what's interesting is certainly that there is no sense of anxiousness from either the crowd or from staffers, many of whom have been not sitting on the steps, but standing there for so long. There is this sense of I'm going to stay here for as long as it takes. And as we over these hours remembering that they expected this would start at 4:30 Eastern time. And we're now closing in on about ten after 6:00, that these crowds over those hours have gotten larger. Not just the ones on the steps, because we knew they were coming, but the ones that are directly sort of facing the people that are on the steps. And it is ground, we're told by police here up to 4,000. There's some makeshift, it looked like computer printed out signs, one of them that says, sail on Ted, well done. Somebody has an old campaign sign. Just says Kennedy on it from Massachusetts, a U.S. Senate run.
But quiet, it's not -- I wouldn't say solemn, but certainly a quiet semi-reflective crowd. A lot of children here. I suspect that some of them don't know exactly the history they're watching, but they will one day. And that's why we take our kids to these things.
And so it's been a pretty quiet, patient crowd here. And not so much grief as just solemnity.
COOPER: And Candy, we see an ambulance there. I understand a few people have been overcome by heat.
CROWLEY: Yes, yes.
COOPER: Obviously, it's got to be extraordinarily uncomfortable there, especially if you have been standing there for two or three hours.
CROWLEY: Yes, we have - there have -- they come right out. And they have actually from where I can see several ambulances waiting because it has been. But I will tell you that A, the sun is going down. And B, the clouds have come in. So and there's a breeze. So it's a lot better now, but in the sort of high sun times off this Capitol, there were some people. And that's one of the reasons that they took Senator Byrd back inside, because not only are they -- there's just no shade there other than the shade that the Capitol is throwing. So there is -- there's been that. But again, it really hasn't discouraged anybody so far as I can see. I don't see people leaving. I just see them coming.
BLITZER: That's the U.S. Capitol right there. The scene is a majestic scene as we've been saying. And Dana Bash works up there on a day-to-day basis. You were pointing out earlier that in your office, which is right near the hideaway of Senator Kennedy's office, I'm sure yours is not as elaborate - not as much of a shrine...
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, no.
BLITZER: ...as is the Senator's.
BASH: A shrine to something, but not that.
BLITZER: Yeah. I've been to your office. I've seen your office. It's a modest little office that you have over there, but you do have an opportunity to walk around and see these people on a day-to-day basis. And to a lot of our viewers, they were probably surprised over the past couple of days to see Republicans go out of their way to praise Senator Kennedy, who's been a lightning rod for a lot of partisan attack from Republicans over the years. But I looked into that crowd at the basilica earlier today. Not only was Orrin Hatch there, and John McCain, but there were plenty of other Republicans there. Current senators, current members of Congress, former. And they were paying their respects to a colleague and a friend.
BASH: A lot of Republicans and a lot of very conservative Republicans were there earlier.
You know, you asked a really good question, because the Congress is just one of the -- as a journalist, just the best seat in the world to cover, because it's open. You get to walk around. And you get to talk to Senator Kennedy or any of the senators. You have incredible access in terms of getting information and talking to them, but also watching them interact.
And you did see with Senator Kennedy the difference in terms of how he interacted with senators.
But one thing as we're looking right there at the Senate chamber, if you go through that door, straight through there is right in to the Senate chamber. And I remember, you know, we are talking a lot about the bipartisanship of Senator Kennedy, but I remember so many times sitting in the press gallery of the Senate chamber just to watch Ted Kennedy's speech because he could get very fiery and very partisan. He was obviously famous for it.
And you know, you would go in there just to kind of feel the walls shake, because he was so loud and so passionate. And that is something that I think a lot of people, you know, will miss, will miss. It was actually theater to go and listen to Senator Kennedy give a speech on the Senate floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when Ted Kennedy was on the Senate floor, the galleries always fill up...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ....because people wanted to see Ted Kennedy give a speech. I look at this picture and I think of the three brothers, all of whom served in the United States Senate, and think what it must have been like for the freshman senator to have a brother who was president of the United States, a brother who was the attorney general. I mean, can you imagine that...
BLITZER: A lot of pressure on that young guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...today? Well, he tells this funny story, told this funny story about when he was a young senator. There was an airline that Northeast Airlines that was based in Boston. It was about to lose its route. And he was a new senator. And he didn't want this airline to lose it's route. So he decided, well, I'm actually going to try and use a little bit of pull here.
So he made an appointment to see the president of the United States, Jack Kennedy, former senator from Massachusetts. And he went to the JFK, and he told him the problem. And the president said, that's your problem now, Teddy. Sorry.
BLITZER: The nature of the business. COOPER: He also talked about in the documentary "Teddy, which we're playing at 8:00 Eastern time, which if you haven't seen, it's really worth seeing. It's an HBO produced documentary about actually being able to serve in the Senate with his brother for the time that his brother was serving. And that was really one of the best times. Yeah...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those four years. And they were very competitive when they were in the Senate together. And he also told the story about naval bases that were supposed to be close either in New York or in Massachusetts. And they were fighting over whose naval bases were to get closed. And they went to see the Secretary of Defense. And Bobby said, after all I've done for you, close Teddy. And that's it. .
BASH: Ed Rollins here on his political past. And you worked for Bobby?
ED ROLLINS: That was my first campaign, presidential campaign. I worked for legendary Jess Underroo (ph), who was the speaker of the California. I was a Democrat. I was born in Roxbury. I came out of a Boston Irish Catholic.
BLITZER: Roxbury is where the Basilica was, the church.
ROLLINS: And my father moved to California when I was 4. And the Kennedys were magical for us as Bostonians, Irish. John Kennedy inspired me in politics when he ran initially against Keith Auver (ph) in '56. And I worked for Bobby and had lunch with him a week before he was killed. And actually the day of his assassination, Ted was in my hometown of Vallejo. Wasn't in L.A.
He was in charge of the Western states. And it was an interesting thing. He was, unlike Bobby, he would run his brother's campaigns. Ted was more ceremonial. And Underroo, who was the legendary political boss of California, ran California. So Teddy got to run everything but California, but he was there that day obviously. And Kennedy won that day. And obviously, the assassination took place.
BLITZER: We're told the motorcade, by the way, is almost there up on Capitol Hill. Should be arriving momentarily, as we've been awaiting it's arrival. We're also told that the chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, the Reverend Daniel Coughlin is expected, Dana, to lead a prayer once the hearse stop there, but maybe Candy who's there, she can give us some more background on exactly what we expect to see unfold over the next 20 or 30 minutes during the stopover on Capitol Hill? Candy?
CROWLEY: We are told, and again, consider this in flux simply because things have taken longer than we expect them to. But we are told that this will be about 15 minutes. They will come in. About a dozen cars are headed here. They will pull into this plaza, right in front of the U.S. Senate steps, where Senator Kennedy went up and down for so many years. They also have an elevator, so obviously in later years, he used that kind of underneath these steps. And in fact right below where JFK was given office space by Lyndon Bains Johnson for the transitional period. And there is a plaque on that second floor office, where JFK transitioned from senator to president. So lots and lots of history sitting here on these steps and elsewhere in this building.
So we expect that they will come up, that there will be the chaplain will say some prayers. There may or may not be words from someone in the family. I would suspect perhaps Vicki. But as you know, Patrick, the son, is a Congressman. It might come from him.
And in the car right behind the hearse, we're told will be the immediate family. So the senator's children and his wife. And they will get out to greet the staffers. And that's where I think you're going to see some of the time slip because it is hard to turn away when so many people have stood so long and in fact served Senator Kennedy for so long to turn away because of a schedule.
So I suspect you will see that slip. And in addition, it's not just that there are staffers here, but that there are senator -- Senator Byrd we've already mentioned. Congressman Dingell is here. Dick Kempthorne (ph), a former Republican senator, turned Republican governor, turned Interior Secretary is here actually seated right by Senator Byrd. We see Norm Manetta, a Democrat who went ahead and worked in the Bush administration. So their own little bipartisan group sitting there on the steps, along with John Dingell as they await this.
So there are colleagues and people who knew the senator quite well, staffers who knew him quite well and have known him for decades, literally.
And then the young staffers, who understand having walked through these halls and seen him, what a kind of a presence he was here on Capitol Hill. So I suspect that we will see something longer than the 15 minutes they have talked about. And after it is over, and the family is back in the car, they will then head back down through Washington across Memorial Bridge and over to where John is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor of Virginia.
BLITZER: ...Chuck Robb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chuck Robb and his wife Linda I think it's Johnson, daughter of Lyndon Johnson is also there.
BLITZER: Yeah. There's a lot of formers and current. People have come together to remember Senator Kennedy, which is totally appropriate.
Let's go back to John King up at Arlington National Cemetery. We may be interrupting you, John, because that motorcade we expect to arrive up on Capitol Hill very, very soon. The service though at Arlington, is supposed to be, what, 20 minutes or so? Is that what the anticipation is? KING: Yes, we are told there will be a very brief service. (INAUDIBLE) run in the ballpark of 15 to 20 minutes. Cardinal McCarrick will be here. The family members, of course, they've set up chairs for them. Two rows for the immediate family.
The gravesite was excavated, Wolf, at 7:00 this morning. And again, it is about 100 feet from Robert Kennedy's gravesite, 200 feet from President Kennedy's grave site.
The ceremony is expected to be quite brief. We will hear from Cardinal McCarrick. We are told that one or two of the grandchildren at the end, at the very end, will approach the gravesite and perhaps say a few final words. Unclear whether we will be able to hear those words.
And you see the motorcade there moving slowly...
BLITZER: Moving towards Capitol Hill right now. This is it, they're on Independence Avenue right now. They'll be making that turn up to the Capitol. We can see the D.C. police escorting the various vehicles that are bringing the hearse and the casket of Senator Kennedy to Capitol Hill, which he loved so much. Spent 47 years as a United States senator. You see the motorcycles. And I think we're going to be seeing that hearse very soon. And then they'll be the Kennedy family. There's the hearse right there at the bottom of your screen just coming into view right now.
They've been going pretty slowly. That's why it's taken so long to get from Edwards Air Force Base outside of Washington to the U.S. Capitol. But it's - they're there, Anderson. And this next phase of the goodbye to Senator Kennedy is about to begin.
COOPER: And we see people who have been on the street just stopped. Some have been waiting for hours. Others, who are just walking by, just stopping in place. Pay their respects as the hearse and the entourage passes by.
BLITZER: Yeah, that's quite an entourage as we see right there.
Candy, once you see them make the turn up to where you are, let us know because eventually, it should be, I'm guessing, where they are on Independence Avenue right now another minute or so.
CROWLEY: It's not far away, because we can see the lights of the cop cars in front of it. So we know that they're near. It's kind of hard because there's a little hill on the plaza, but we're looking straight across. And we see a lot of flashing lights, Wolf. So I think you are very close to that left hand turn in here.
COOPER: And we've seen so many extraordinary images already today of Kennedy family members really coming together. There was the moment as the casket was being brought out of the church and being brought down the central aisle of the church. And all the family members kind of surrounded the casket, and actually walked out with the casket, bringing it outside the church. There was a moment when we saw Vicki, some other members of the Kennedy members kind of straightening out the flag that was on top of -- the covering that was on top of the casket when it first was brought to the altar of the church.
BLITZER: Yeah, they replaced the flag, which had flown atop the U.S. Capitol on the last day of the current Senate session before they went into recess. And they - during the actual mass service, but they put it back on. And then they - if you notice carefully as you were watching, they put some plastic cover, because it was raining. They didn't want that flag to get wet. So it was an emotional moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in the church, in the Catholic church, there's always the Catholic flag covers a casket no matter what. So...
BLITZER: That's why they took the American flag off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So no matter what - I mean, every Catholic funeral, they put that flag over any casket.
COOPER: And to see the family members adjusting that flag.
We're anticipating seeing another extraordinary moment coming up here with the family's anticipating to (INAUDIBLE). Many of the people have been waiting for hours.
BLITZER: People are applauding right now. And the staffers are there. The members of Congress, the House and the Senate, they're there. There are tourists. There are also a lot of Washington, D.C. residents, who have just heard about this, decided they want to watch this as well.
I think where Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senate Kennedy, this is going to be rather emotional when she see this huge gathering that has come together. You see someone waving out of that second vehicle, that limousine right behind the hearse. I'm not sure who that is, but this will be emotional for all of them.
COOPER: Let's listen in to the sounds of the applause as the senator approaches the Capitol that he so loved.
REV. DANIEL COUGHLIN, CHAPLAIN, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Mrs. Kennedy, we gather with you, the family and dear friends to express our solidarity with you at this time. Some members of both chambers of Congress, officers, co-workers, collaborators, and especially former and presently serving staff of the senator are gathered here on the steps. Here we are to briefly pray with you, offer our sympathy, and to thank you.
Thank you for sharing the senator and so much of his life with us. Thank you also for your love and your care throughout the years, especially during the time of illness and these last moments. Be assured of our prayers, and anything we can do for you as you move on. Let us pray. Though in the sight of people, your servant Senator Ted Kennedy suffered greatly and took on enormous tasks. Lord, you knew his hopes were unquenchable, full of immortality. You knew his strengths and his limitations. He knew you, Lord. He knew you could use anyone or anything to accomplish your purpose and draw people closer to one another and to his divine presence.
Grounded in faith, fashioned by family values, and once expanded to a world vision, true contemplative leadership would draw a staff and friends to new depths of human understanding. Embraced with compassion, such a vision would inspire people around the world to believe, to believe with all our hearts that peace and justice will conquer violence and division. And competition can be converted to collaboration.
Although burdened by the weight of his passing, Lord, help his co- workers and collaborators raise the torch of his convictions and commitments for a new generation, one yet even to be born, and to all and all those parts of this nation and the world who are still untouched by the social responsibility inherent in every aspect of human freedom.
Faithful servant of the people, and longtime spokesman for government of the people, go now to your place of rest and meet the Lord your God.
We thank you, Lord, for the short time you have given us to work together, to be together. To you, be all honor, power, glory and phrase, now and forever. Amen.
Now I'd like to introduce Samuel Bonds, choral director of Count Basie at Duke Ellington School of Music. Sorry. Sam Bonds, choral director of the Duke Ellington School of Music, who will lead all of us in singing "America, the Beautiful."
(MUSIC "AMERICA, THE BEAUTIFUL")
COUGHLIN: Thank you very much for attending. Eternal rest granted to him oh, Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed to the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
TED KENNEDY, JR.: I just want to say on behalf of my brother and sister how proud my dad was to serve here in the Senate. And most of all to know that he couldn't have done it without all the people that he worked with. He knew that he was only great because he had great people supporting him. And he knew the value of good staff. And that's why he was so successful. And I know that all of you having watched what happened the last three days have to feel good that you are part of his life, because this country has outpoured its soul and heart this last few days to say what a difference he's made in the life of this country. And I think that you all today should be feeling like you were part of that too, because of all that you've done to be part of the same legacy that he wanted for this country.
And I hope that you feel some consolation that the many, many hard hours that you put in to the nitty gritty of legislating and policy making gives you some sense of satisfaction at having done a really important job for this country. Because that's the legacy he would want you to feel good about. And he'd be very proud to see you all out here today paying a final respect and tribute to his memory. And I thank you on behalf of my family for being here.
BLITZER: At the very end, you heard from one of the sons of Senator Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, the Democratic Congressman from Rhode Island, who spoke for the siblings. You saw Teddy Kennedy, Jr. standing by, and Cara, the daughter, the three kids of Senator Kennedy, they were there as well, clearly moved by this outstanding show of support, of friends, family members. But you see the staffers and other members of Congress who've gathered on the step of the United States Capitol to pay their respects to Senator Kennedy. It was a very emotional moment. And I'm sure for the widow, Vicki Kennedy, Anderson, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring that she saw.
COOPER: You know, so many people around the country think of the government as sort of this monolithic entity without a name, without a face. This really does put a very personal face on the law making on the Capitol Hill, on our government. I mean these are the people who day in and day out are...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worked very, very hard. And the hours were extraordinary, a lot of weekend work. You know, particularly people who work on the Hill have extraordinary energy.
BLITZER: When constituents have complaints, they call the offices of their congressmen or their senator. And they want some action, whether it's a Social Security check that never arrived, or some disability payments, or whatever. They're on the case. And they do the best that they possibly can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) a member of Congress is just as good as a (INAUDIBLE). If you're a constituent, and you call a member of Congress, you're not going to likely to them when they pick the phone up. And so you don't have a gatekeeper who knows how to handle folks. You can look real bad.
I know members of Congress, thankfully, who have lost because they have gotten ripped by the constituents by the kind of people on their staff. And so, a testament to the kind of people he hired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, Senator Kennedy's staff was the best on the Hill. And Senator Kennedy was known as somebody who never gave up doing constituent services. So here in the state of Massachusetts, and you needed some help, you called Senator Kennedy's office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know when you're staff is good when frankly, when Ron Brown was the council, you look at Melody Barnes, you look at any number of people, folks - Stephanie Cutter, folks who have worked -- other folks want to hire the people who's on his staff because they knew the vetting process.
COOPER: Let's go to Candy Crowley, who's standing by on Capitol Hill. Candy, it's one thing to see this on television. It's another thing to be there. What is it like there from where you are?
CROWLEY: Oh, my goodness. It's awesome. I mean, just, you know, on a personal level, which is neither here nor there, but having -- his having been up here for so many years, having covered this place, having actually covered him in his '80 challenge against Jimmy Carter, it is amazing to see all of this history pour out of the cars. And out of the 12-car motorcade is now about, I don't know, a 20-car motorcade. Along with buses. So everybody got out.
COOPER: Wait, are they singing?
CROWLEY: Oh, hang on, they're singing, yes. Hang on a second.
COOPER: Let's listen.
(MUSIC "GOD BLESS AMERICA)
BLITZER: Go ahead, Candy. Looks like that was just a spontaneous decision to sing "God Bless America" by those staffers and others. And now they're -- it sounds like they're singing again, aren't they?
COOPER: Let's listen.
(MUSIC "Oh Beautiful")
BLITZER: This motorcade will now make its way from Capitol Hill down Constitution Avenue towards the Washington Mall, go by the Washington Monument, go by the Lincoln Memorial, then cross the Memorial Bridge into Virginia over the Potomac River. And eventually, shouldn't take all that long to get to Arlington National Cemetery where the formal burial service will take place.
Every one of these steps, Anderson, that we've seen throughout these past few days has been different, but significant and oh, so meaningful to Senator Kennedy who, I'm sure contributed to the planning, even in his last few weeks.
COOPER: The history is literally happening before our eyes, past (INAUDIBLE), as Candy said, the history really pouring out of this building.
Candy, we interrupted you before for the singing. Have you ever seen a moment like this?
CROWLEY: No, no. I mean, I have seen certainly the funerals of many presidents, of prime ministers, and that sort of thing. So -- but this is a different -- this was not a president or a prime minister. This was a U.S. senator, one of 100, except for the, you know, greater among equals as they say.
To watch, a couple of things, I don't know what you saw on your TV screen and what you didn't. Senator Byrd repeatedly dabbing his eyes as members of the Kennedy family, including Vicki and both the sons and Cara, coming over to bend down and talk to Senator Byrd. The senator waving his American flag as the hearse carrying the body of his colleague and friend leaves the Capitol grounds for the last time. I mean, it is -- those are moments that are just -- don't come often, and are often hard to take.
We saw Patrick Kennedy. Now when you saw him speak, it was the first time he'd actually gotten close to those people that you now see applauding, the staffers. The entire time that the small miniservice that was going on, Patrick was on the other side of the car, carrying his father's coffin, standing at attention right next to the window where you could see the coffin clearly out -- draped in the American flag. And Patrick stood there the whole day, almost like standing on guard.
Behind me, I am right now, my position is I'm looking at the people on the steps. But if I turn around, the people that just sort of gathered here fairly spontaneously joined in the extended applause, wiped their eyes, listened to the whole thing. It's an incredible sight.
And as I say, this -- the 12 cars and just the small number of family members getting out, you know, of course, did not happen. Every single member I think of the family came. And it took them a while to kind of collect because the motorcade was fairly long. And they all came up to listen to the chaplain talk. They all shook hands, especially along the front row.
As I say, Senator Byrd, Congressman Dingell both very much sought after by the members of the family. Senator Kerry went over also, exchanging a few words with Senator Byrd.
So it was - it's the office. It's a little bit like the office came out to say goodbye to a colleague. Except for after half a century, it's a little bit more than an office. It's your other family. So it was quite a moment, I think, for the staffers, many of whom wiped away tears along with Senator Byrd, and for those who barely knew the man, but understood the importance of the halls that he walked and so many others walk now. And, you know, and before him.
And so it was -- it had this kind of solemnity. And with Patrick's remarks, a kind of job well done. The passage of time, I think, and this happens at any funeral, but it's so acutely in definition when you see someone who has been in the public eye for as long as Senator Kennedy was for almost half a century. And then you see Teddy Jr. and Teddy III. And you see the staffers, who were not born for a couple of decades until after Ted Kennedy became a U.S. senator.
And you understand both the kind of cruelty of time, because it gets all of us. And you know, at the same time, the kind of redemption of time, because when Senator Kennedy became a U.S. senator, a lot of people thought he was a pretender to the throne, that he wouldn't have gotten that Senate seat if his last name had not been Kennedy.
Along came Chappaquiddick. So many, many personal failings. And yet, t here was time for Ted Kennedy to turn himself into one of the best lawmakers and legislators of the last century.
And then I look at Robert Byrd, and despite what began as a fractious relationship between the two of them, how close they became. And here is with Senator Byrd, who as a young man, late teenager was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in West Virginia, has gotten beaten over the head about that so many times. Says it's the biggest regret of his life.
And here he is, great friends with a man whose family is associated with civil rights. So time is, you know, you can't help but sort of look at this and see both the cruelty and the tenderness of time and what it can do to help shape a life and what it always does to end a life. And you kind of see that here with the young people and the old people and the in between people.
And so it was - it is an amazing moment here on the plaza of the Capitol. We have not seen it before. I don't know when we might see it again, Anderson.
COOPER: And Donna Brazile was watching along with us.
Donna, you have spent a lot of time on that Capitol. I doubt you, though, have seen anything like what we have just saw.
DONNA BRAZILE: Anderson, I've organized so many events at the United States Capitol, the east front, the west front. And I can tell you this is a very special day, a very special occasion.
And I was listening to Gloria talk about the congressional staffers. I tell you it's one of the most gratifying things to work for a member of Congress, to be chosen to not only help him in their duties, but to serve the constituents that they truly love and respect. It's hard work, but it's honorable work, because you're working for the American people.
But I want to tell you, as a resident of the District of Columbia, I know that there are many people who are gathered today along the route because Ted Kennedy was our United States senator. We don't have a United States senator yet. When it came to home rule and passage of D.C. voting rights, he was always there, championing our cause to ensure that the taxpaying residents will also have voting rights. So I'm sure many people are out there today to pay love and tribute to someone who was never -- was unwaivering in his commitment to equal justice under the law for all citizens.
BLITZER: And as this motorcade goes down Constitution Avenue towards the Lincoln Memorial and eventually towards Arlington National Cemetery, let's go to John King. He's already at Arlington National Cemetery getting ready for the final, the final stage in this several day process leading to the burial at Arlington.
John, you were watching all of this. You've covered Senator Kennedy for a long time. We're going to get to John in a moment and talk about what is about to happen in this final burial. It will end this process. And then Anderson, we'll all move on.
COOPER: We're told the service should be about 15 to 20 minutes. I believe a sunset is actually at 7:45 tonight. So it's going to be pretty getting close to sunset. John King is at Arlington, as Wolf said. John, do we know about how long it will take for them to get to the final location?
KING: It's a very short drive, Anderson, across the Capitol to get here. You can do it in eight or ten minutes, if you're catching the lights on a regular day. They're obviously driving very slowly. Vice President Biden just arrived moments ago. His motorcade pulled in. He won't be among those up there.
The motorcade obviously driving very slowly. And as they come across past the Lincoln Memorial and across Memorial Bridge, they will see several hundred people. So we assume they will continue to move slowly, continuing the very moving scenes.
And I tell you as you watch that take place at the Capitol, that very moving ceremony, there you see Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial on the other side. And some of the crowd on the bridge, it's a smaller crowd on the bridge than actually on the road, once you get to the other side. Yet it was on steps, not far from the steps we were just watching that John Kennedy said the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans. And the torch has always been the Kennedy metaphor.
And John Kennedy had his torch stripped by senseless violence. And Robert Kennedy picked it up. And horrific violence took it from him.
And what makes Ted Kennedy so unique and that scene so unique is that his torch burned for 47 years in the Senate, through amazing achievements, through significant personal failings and challenges. And to see the different generations, the staffers, the lawmakers, the former lawmakers, some tourists, some people who work here in Washington, are involved in politics, turned out along the roadside like this, it is a reminder of what makes this Kennedy different from the two other brothers of what many romantically call Camelot.
His torch burned, he got gray. We saw amazing successes and some remarkable failures. And that has been what I think makes the celebration so unique in that people will tell you stories about an increase in the minimum wage, about the wheelchair ramp on the courthouse, or at the stadium you go through tomorrow.
In Massachusetts, they told stories about Social Security checks and veterans benefits. He lived as his son Teddy put it this morning, a full life. And yet as he said Teddy Kennedy Jr. in that very poignant speech, he had unfinished business still. And that is the sense of the Capitol, watching and celebrating and also sadly saying farewell to the brother who got old. And we got to see live a full life.
BLITZER: Seventy-seven years old. In this day and age, relatively young, though he did pack a lot into those 77 years, including 47 years serving as the U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Roland Martin.
ROLAND MARTIN: When we talk about JFK and RFK, we talk about what could have been, what the nation could have looked like, what they could have accomplished. With Kennedy - with Ted Kennedy, we talked about what was, what he did accomplish. And that's the chief difference, I think, of how people are reacting to his death, because he did what he set out to do.
BLITZER: And he did a lot. He accomplished a great deal, despite all the flaws. And now we're seeing the hearse continue on Constitution Avenue, Northwest, heading toward the Memorial Bridge.
And it's interesting, Anderson. You can see people have lined up along that route. That's the Memorial Bridge. And that's the scene. You see the Lincoln Memorial behind the Memorial Bridge. It will be crossing from Washington into Virginia towards Arlington National Cemetery.
COOPER: And that was certainly the blessing of time that Senator Kennedy had, which other members of his family did not, the blessing of time to redeem himself, to change, to grow, to become a better person than he was the year before.
BORGER: You know, Anderson, there used to be something people talk about called the Kennedy curse. You know, how this family had so much tragedy. And I once asked the senator about that. I said what about that curse? And he said, oh, no, this family is a family that's been very blessed to serve. And I've been very blessed to serve. And I think we see today with those staffers there, who wanted to be a part of the great legacy that he left this country, that he was able to leave this country, I think you can put that to rest.
COOPER: Don Lemon, sorry, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I watch this scene here, I'm reminded as obviously being the oldest one here, I'm reminded as a young boy watching his brother, who came across that bridge on a horse drawn carriage.
BLITZER: Which brother are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John. America was glued to that scene. And you know, this is a man who basically day by day, even though I was on the opposite side of many of the battles from him, who with great criticism and great polarization, he still accomplished a great deal. And he -- more important than anything else, he earned a great reputation as an extraordinary senator. And I think at the end of the day as we watch all of this, we're all Americans. We don't get up -- we're not born Republicans or Democrats. We basically all try and work for what's the good of the country. And the great thing about this country, is whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, you believe deeply in the great values of this country. And he on one side led his party very effectively.
BLITZER: Let's go to Don Lemon. He's on the route. Don, tell our viewers exactly where you are and what you're seeing.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, standing right here in the middle of the crowd at 7th and Constitution, right across from the National Archive Building. And you wouldn't believe where people have come from for this event. I've seen people from Ireland, from Brazil. One woman is here from South Carolina. Another woman here from Naples, Florida who grew up here. Her name is Ronnie Wolf. She said this is the third time for her for a Kennedy.
RONNIE WOLF: It's tragic but true. I was a college student when John Kennedy was assassinated. And I was here on Constitution Avenue. And I was a law student when Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated and stood with friends who now live in California and are watching for that for six hours. And now Senator Kennedy died in later life. So I felt really important to just be here to pay tribute.
LEMON: Yeah. And Wolf and Anderson, I felt it's important to hear from these people who thought it was so important to be out here and were moved enough to show up, even as you guys have been reporting the sweltering heat here in Washington. So they are gathering, starting to disburse now, but they've been here all afternoon, you know, just facing the heat and wanting to see the motorcade come by. And when the wife came by and waved out of the window, there was applause. So - and you guys heard it and you witnessed it live as well. Anderson, Wolf?
COOPER: It is so extraordinary when you think about, you know, generations of public mourning of members of the Kennedy family. I mean, this is the third funeral of this type that America has watched.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. The third funeral of this type that America has watched, but obviously such different circumstances, but all of them Kennedy style in the sense that, you know, that they have such an eye for, an understanding for imagery, pageantry, theater. And you know, the first two funerals that America watched, they had to put together pretty quickly, obviously, because they were assassinated. This was something, as we discussed, that Ted Kennedy had a big hand in. But...
BLITZER: And let's not forget the nation watched the funeral of John Kennedy Jr. as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. And Jackie Kennedy.
BLITZER: Yeah, and Jackie - Jacqueline Kennedy, we all watched. And those were emotional moments for the country. There's no doubt about it. When Gloria speaks of the Kennedy curse, that was the sense all these tragic deaths that the country and the family endured.
Let me just tell you where this motorcade is right now. This is a camera that's at the corner of 16th and Constitution. It's about midway between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. It's already passed the Washington Monument. And it's heading toward the Lincoln Memorial. And it'll cross the Memorial Bridge, going to Arlington National Cemetery.
So it's moving very, very slowly. Because folks have gathered along both sides of Constitution Avenue to pay their respects. That's the shot of the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River.
MARTIN: To hear the woman Don talked to, I mean, it is amazing, to sit there and try to think there's no other family that you can think of that has had this kind of grip on the country. None. I mean, just, you know, year after year, you know, the kind of impact. And even here, you now, it was interesting yesterday listening to his grandson talk about running for the U.S. Senate when he turns 45. I mean, just -- there's no family like it. So I think that's also one of the reasons why you see the kind of reaction of it has cover just so many different areas.
BORGER: Well, every major struggle this country has gone through, the Kennedys have been there. Civil rights, labor struggles, health care, everything.
BLITZER: And Donna Brazile, who's watching this together with all of us, you not only witnessed, but you participated in many of these struggles over the years. And just talk briefly about the role that Senator Kennedy played in the civil rights movement?
BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, one of his first major speeches on the Senate floor was in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was being held up by Southern Democrats. And Senator Kennedy challenged his party to stand up for civil rights and equal justice under the law.
He later championed voting rights, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Fair Housing Act in 1968. I mentioned Title IX in 1973.
Every major piece of legislation involving civil rights, equal justice, Ted Kennedy not only lended his voice, he used his political muscle, his skills to negotiate, to cross the aisle to forge a compromise.