President Barack Obama lamented the increasingly partisan nature of Congressional politics and called on leaders in Washington to follow the example set by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy during the dedication of an institute named for the “liberal lion” on Monday.
Obama headlined a bipartisan group of politicians celebrating the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston. The president and Vice President Joe Biden were joined by Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Senate GOP Leader Trent Lott.
The speakers reflected on Kennedy’s life while also fondly recalling the ways Congress used to operate.
“Ted grieved the loss of camaraderie and collegiality, the face-to-face interaction,” Obama said. “I think he regretted the arguments now made to cameras instead of colleagues.”
"It all leads more Americans to turn away in disgust," he added.
The $79 million institute, which was built next to John F. Kennedy’s presidential library, features a full-size replica of the Senate chamber. Kennedy spent 47 years in the Senate and thought up the institute before his death in 2009. The goal is to help restore public faith in an institution that the public has little confidence in.
“This is not the time for me to suggest a slew of ideas for reform, although I do have some," Obama said. “Maybe I’ll just mention one. What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy? What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?”
McCain, who like Kennedy is known for his feisty temperament, said he misses the battles he had with the Massachusetts Democrat.
“I have no doubt the place would be a little more productive and a lot more fun if he were there," McCain said.
-- Andrew Rafferty