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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.

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


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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.


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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.


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


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


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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.


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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."


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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."


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


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


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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.


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


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Kennedy with Hillary Clinton in 2006.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Kennedy and President Reagan in 1981.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Ted Kennedy died before his wish for a change to Massachusetts law could come to fruition, which would empower the Governor to appoint Kennedy's immediate successor. This has sown some confusion over whether the legislature might still change the law, or whether the seat will stay vacant until a special election is held.

As the law now stands, the seat would have to remain vacant for the next 145-160 days -- thus busting the Democrats down to 59 Senate seats -- until a special election can be held. The Democrats would be heavily favored to win that special Senate election.

However, there appears to be at least a theoretical possibility that the seat could be filled sooner than that. In the final weeks of his life, Kennedy had called for the law to be changed to allow Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to make an interim appointment, selecting a caretaker who would represent the state and pledge not to run in the election.

The irony here is that the law in Massachusetts used to be that the Governor would appoint a Senator who would occupy the seat until the next regular Congressional election -- as occurred when John F. Kennedy was elected president, a caretaker was appointed, and then Ted Kennedy won the seat in 1962. Democrats used their veto-proof legislative majorities to pass the new law in 2004, when John Kerry was running for President and Republican Mitt Romney was the Governor at the time.

Now in 2009 -- with the health care debate in the balance this Fall -- that law appears to carry with it a serious unintended consequence.

Read More →

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said this morning that the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy "just makes me more determined to get [health care reform] done."

Roll Call reports that Franken spoke about Kennedy at the beginning of a health care roundtable in St. Paul.

"He was a man who fought for kids and for the disabled and for the poor and the sick and the disadvantaged," Franken said. Health care reform "was the cause of his lifetime."

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean was scheduled to contribute to a health care book club over at TPMCafe today. Instead, he sends over a reminiscence.

"My mother, who was a solid Upper East Side Republican until 2004, once happened to sit next to him at a wedding of a mutual friend," Dean writes. "She had never met him before. I'm sure the exchange was lively, and being a Dean, I doubt my mother gave him much quarter. A week later, a beautiful, kind, and very personal handwritten letter arrived from Ted Kennedy. My mother, like so many other Americans, was hooked by the Kennedy charm and grace."

You can read his entire remembrance below the fold, or at this link.

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President Obama called the late Ted Kennedy "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy" in remarks this morning at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, Massachusetts. Read the full transcript below.

9:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to say a few words this morning about the passing of an extraordinary leader, Senator Edward Kennedy.

Over the past several years, I've had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor, and a friend. And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.

Since Teddy's diagnosis last year, we've seen the courage with which he battled his illness. And while these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they've also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us. His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you -- and goodbye.

The outpouring of love, gratitude, and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education's promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just -- including myself.

The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party. And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth, and good cheer. He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.

And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. And the extraordinary good that he did lives on. For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was the defender of a dream.

I spoke earlier this morning to Senator Kennedy's beloved wife, Vicki, who was to the end such a wonderful source of encouragement and strength. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, his children Kara, Edward, and Patrick; his stepchildren Curran and Caroline; the entire Kennedy family; decades' worth of his staff; the people of Massachusetts; and all Americans who, like us, loved Ted Kennedy.

END 10:00 A.M. EDT

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