Less than a month after President Barack Obama denounced a letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the leaders of Iran, he honored the achievements of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy – a lawmaker who reached out to the Soviet Union in the 1980s against the will of the Reagan administration.
“What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy? What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?” Obama said at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston on Monday. “To his harshest critics, who saw him as being nothing more than a partisan lightning rod, that may sound foolish, but there are Republicans here today for a reason.”
President Barack Obama prepares to give Victoria Reggie Kennedy a kiss as he arrives to speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Boston. The $79 million Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate dedication was a politically star-studded event attended by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and past and present senators of both parties. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Among the Republicans in attendance was one of the 47 signatories, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who also spoke at the event.
Kennedy in 1983 communicated with Soviet Union leaders in the midst of Reagan administration negotiations.
Still, Obama previously called the letter circulated by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and signed by 46 of his GOP colleagues, “close to unprecedented.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “not just unprecedented but inappropriate,” and Secretary of State John Kerry called the letter “unconstitutional.”
During the event, Obama said, “No one made the Senate come alive like Ted Kennedy.”
“He would regret arguments made to cameras instead of colleagues,” Obama said.
“The Senate was a place where you instinctively pulled yourself up a little bit straighter,” the president added. “It fills you with a heightened sense of purpose. That’s the magic of the Senate. That’s the essence of what it can be.”