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In an interview with a Boston TV station, the Kennedy family priest who was called last night to Ted Kennedy's bedside, said the senator "was ready to go."

"The truth is, he had expressed to his family that he did want to go. He did want to go to heaven. He did want to die and he did want to go. He was ready to go. There was a certain amount peace -- a lot of peace, actually -- in the family get-together last night. I couldn't help but think that the world doesn't know that part of the senator at all," said the Rev. Patrick Tarrant, who was called to Kennedy's home late Tuesday night.

Tarrant said Kennedy was "a man of quiet prayer" in his last few hours.

"He was there and very reverent. I wish the world had known that part of him, but that was his secret. It was like it was the secret of his power, to be involved in doing good for others and it was what, I believe, drove him," Tarrant said.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the lead Democratic negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee, said today that the spirit of the late Ted Kennedy will be "even stronger" when it comes to health care reform.

"Ironically, I think that the spirit and the passion of Ted is going to be even stronger now," he said.

When asked by MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell if the committee will meet a Sept. 15 deadline set by the White House, he said, "Well, we'll see."

"How we'll pass health reform and what precise date, we'll work that out on the next week or so," he said, but today it's "best for all of us to just remember Ted." "I've never known a more effective legislator," Baucus said. "He was so passionate and worked so hard ... then he would sit down and work out the compromise."

On the eve of his election to Congress in 1996, Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) received a call from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) congratulating him on his victory, and on the energy he put into the race. Tierney says "it wasn't obligatory. He was just letting us know he cared."

"He wasn't a perfect guy, but he never pretended to be," Tierney says but as he was the sort of person who, despite all of his import, "took the time out of his personal schedule to make the call."

Perhaps that's the memory that will live with Tierney longest, but the two men had many, more spirited encounters.

"Teddy loved to dance and he loved to joke," says Tierney, adding that, by contrast he has "more of a stiffer Irish style." Tierney recalls a number of occasions--but particularly one at a meeting of the Salem Council on Aging--where Kennedy would sing and dance and belly laugh and goad, "Hey Tierney, get out here!" amused to put his colleague on the spot.

As Josh suggested on the home page earlier today it's futile to completely sequester the historical moment of Ted Kennedy's death from the political moment of the day. Kennedy passed away in the middle of a health care debate he couldn't really shape, but that, more than almost any living politician, he'd helped to engender.

For both personal and political reasons, a great number of Democrats find the notion that health care reform might fail in the wake of Kennedy's death unacceptable. Undoubtedly, just as many Republicans will declare that using Kennedy's memory in the service of passing legislation is inappropriate.

But while these two opposing stances will dominate the headlines, and media figures will breathlessly ask if Democrats or Republicans are politicizing Kennedy's death, the more interesting question will be, How much influence will these two factions have on those who sit on the fence?

Already we're seeing the first signs that Democrats hope Kennedy's death will galvanize the majority, end the squabbling over minutae, and pass legislation that would have made him proud.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) knew last night's town hall -- held just 20 miles from Washington, D.C., and featuring universal coverage supporter Howard Dean -- might get ugly.

Hours before the event, Moran told a local news station he was concerned. "I hope that they leave their guns behind," he said.

There are no reports of people bringing their guns, but nearly 3,000 people packed a gymnasium in Reston, Va., many of them intent on either shouting down the night's hosts, or each other. The majority seemed to be supporters of health care reform -- but that didn't mean the meeting was quiet.

Despite the rowdiness, Dean said today on CNBC that meeting was "exciting," and that he enjoyed it. No one was really rude, he said, adding that Moran did a good job keeping control.

Moran's office had tried to pre-empt shouters by passing out copies of George Washington's "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior," to no avail. Audience members began shouting halfway through the opening prayer; they screamed, "under God!" during the Pledge of Allegiance; and interrupted Moran's opening remarks several times, even as he was asking for a civil debate.

"Dissent is as American as apple pie," he said. "The freedom of speech, the first amendment, is clearly the foundation upon which our country was built. The voices of the American people should not be silenced [but] it doesn't provide one with the right to shout down or otherwise interfere with someone else's right to be heard."

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A new survey of Arkansas from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a key centrist Democrat, could be in serious danger going into 2010 -- with her running in dead heats with three essentially unknown Republicans.

The numbers: State Senate Minority Leader Gilbert Baker edges out Lincoln by 42%-40%; businessman Curtis Coleman leads her by 41%-40%; and Lincoln edges Afghanistan War veteran Tom Cotton by 40%-39%. All of these results are within the ±3.5% margin of error.

In addition, none of the Republicans have favorable ratings in the double digits, and the percentage of respondents who have no opinion is about 80% in all cases. So this is essentially Lincoln against generic Republicans.

From the pollster's analysis: "You couldn't get a clearer indication that the national momentum is with Republicans right now than a poll showing some guys with single digit name recognition running even with an incumbent Senator."

President Obama today signed a presidential proclamation ordering American flags at all federal buildings flown at half-mast until sunset Aug. 30 in honor of Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died late Tuesday night.

Obama also ordered flags to fly at half-mast on the day of Kennedy's burial.

Here's the full text:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy was not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy. Over the past half-century, nearly every major piece of legislation that has advanced the civil rights, health, and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. With his passing, an important chapter in our American story has come to an end. As a mark of respect for the memory of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on August 30, 2009. I also direct that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of his interment. I further direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same periods at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth. BARACK OBAMA

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), a giant of liberalism in the latter half of 20th century, died of brain cancer on August 25 in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. He was 77. Read the TPM obituary here.

Pictured here are the Kennedy brothers in Hyannisport in 1948: John, Robert, and Edward.


John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy in Hyannisport in July 1960.


All grown up: the brothers on August 28, 1963 - Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy, and President John Kennedy,. The fatal shooting of the President in Dallas took place three months later.


Kennedy and former Chancellor of West Germany (1969-1974) Willy Brandt at a Schönberg town hall ceremony in Berlin on November 28, 1989. Kennedy visited Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall.


Kennedy and Berlin's then-governing mayor, Walter Momper on November 28, 1989. The Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate are in the background.

Newscom/Wolfgang Kumm

Kennedy at a reception in Bonn, Germany on April 16, 1971 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Newscom/Horst Ossinger

Kennedy after a meeting with President Jimmy Carter at the White House on June 5, 1980. Emerging from the 90-minute-long meeting, Kennedy said he was still in the presidential race, challenging Carter for the Democratic party's nomination.


Kennedy ended up losing the primary to Carter in a bitter campaign, but he delivered the keynote speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York on August 12. He ended the famous speech with the words, "For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."


Kennedy discusses his vote on the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court prior to the call to order of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 6, 1987. The Senator was a primary attacker against Bork's nomination, taking to the Senate floor within 45 minutes of the President's announcement and speaking forcefully in a nationally televised speech: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."


Kennedy before an address to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Newscom/PictureDesk International

Kennedy speaks to niece Caroline Kennedy after her speech to the 2000 Democratic convention.


After being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May 2008 and undergoing surgery in June, Kennedy mostly stayed out of the public's view. However, he insisted on appearing at the Democratic National Convention, and on August 25, the convention's first night, Kennedy delivered an impassioned speech. "It is so wonderful to be here. Nothing - nothing - is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight," he said.

Newscom/Denver Post

Kennedy at his Washington D.C. residence in 2006.


Kennedy with Hillary Clinton in 2006.

As the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Kennedy heard testimony from Microsoft founder Bill Gates on education policy in March 2007.

With Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008.

Kennedy, a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, shakes the hand of Gen. David Petraeus before a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting.

In a move that surprised many and upset the Clinton, Ted Kennedy endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama for president in 2008. Here, Kennedy appears onstage with Obama at a campaign event.

On July 9, 2008, a visibly ailing Sen. Kennedy walks into the Capitol building for the first time after his brain surgery.

President Obama and Ted Kennedy walk the grounds of the White House in April 2009.

White House photo / Pete Souza

The Kennedy family, of course, is no stranger to death. Here, Edward Kennedy stands by a newly-widowed Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband's funeral.


Mourners, led by Edward Kennedy (right), Jacqueline Kennedy (center), and Robert F. Kennedy, stream from the White House after part of JFK's funeral ceremony.


Ted Kennedy looks over the shoulders of President Lyndon Johnson at his brother Robert's funeral.


Kennedy and President Reagan in 1981.


Ted Kennedy maneuvers a roller sled down Mt. Tom's Alpine slide in Holyoke, Mass.


Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1985.


An emotional Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Ted Kennedy embrace as they pose for photographers following the wedding of his niece Caroline to Edwin Schlossberg in 1986.


Kennedy enjoys a ride on a swing ride at Riverside Park Amusement Center in Agawam, Mass. in 1979.


Sen. Edward Kennedy calls on President Lyndon Johnson at the White House.


Teddie and Bobbie Kennedy receive stuffed animals and other souvenirs from the secretary of the London Zoo's Children's Zoo in 1938.


Teddie and Bobbie Kennedy with a baby elephant at the Children's Zoo.


The official portrait of Sen. Edward Kennedy at the U.S. Capitol.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that Sen. Ted Kennedy was "such a strong champion of what America stands for: caring for others, equality and progress."

"Because of Ted Kennedy, more Americans are proud of our country," Reid said. "His America is one in which we could all pursue justice."

"The liberal lion's mighty roar, I will always remember, may now fall silent, but his dreams shall never die," he said.

Reid recounted how, as founder of a Young Democrats club at his university, he received a letter from then-President-elect John F. Kennedy.

"I've been a devotee of the Kennedys for a long time," he said. "At so many difficlult times in Kennedy family history, they turned to their Uncle Ted for comfort. And at so many critical times in our country's history, America has turned to Ted Kennedy for that same comfort."

"Sen. Kennedy's legacy stands with the greatest ... to ever serve Congress," Reid said. "The impact he has etched in our history will long endure."

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) was perhaps Ted Kennedy's closest friend in the U.S. Senate. The mens' history together goes back to the days when Kennedy served with Dodd's father, and continued until two weeks ago when, Dodd said today, they had one of their "best talks" about health care. According to Dodd, it was as if Kennedy had never been sick.

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Dodd recalled that Kennedy had tried to raise his spirits just a few weeks ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer--welcoming him, in Dodd's words "to the cancer club."

Dodd says he hopes Kennedy's death will spur Congress to action on health care and other initiatives. "Maybe Teddy's passing will remind people that we're here to get a job done," Dodd said.