August 25th, 2008
12:53 PM ET

Showtime for the Democrats...

Claire Brinberg
CNN Election Center Senior Producer

On the flight to Denver, I found myself sitting next to Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey…not so much a household name, but still a very pleasant and chatty neighbor. And here's what I learned:

  1. Frank Lautenberg was the force behind the law banning smoking on airplanes (Go Frank!). 
  2. Frank Lautenberg tops his oatmeal with a generous pinch of salt...says it "puts hair on your chest."

If conventions are the Oscars of politics, Frank Lautenberg is kinda like Jerry Stiller: a familiar face, but no marquee draw.

Ted Kennedy, on the other hand, is Jack Nicholson: Always there year after year…weathered with the passing of time, but now and forever a Major Star. The crowd expects him, but the moment he swaggers on stage, it’s still serious thrill time. Delegates go all giddy…even the most jaded among them, awestruck.

Well this year, it didn’t look like Teddy was gonna show. Battling brain cancer, his doctors worried the Senator’s immune system would be compromised by the grueling trip to Denver. And Democrats were faced with the prospect of a Ted-less convention for the first time in decades.

But for the Senator “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Ted Kennedy is in Denver today. His spokesman says he “wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.”

Tonight, the delegates in the Pepsi Center will rise once again in thundering tribute to a true icon of their party. And Ted Kennedy will do what he does best: rally his fellow Democrats…give them hope and fire and faith. It will be spellbinding, dramatic and highly emotional. A soaring convention highlight on just the first night.

I was thinking about Ted Kennedy this morning. But I was also thinking about his supporting actors, like Senator Lautenberg. On the plane, I’d told him the whole salted oatmeal thing was weird, and he seemed kinda hurt. “I wouldn’t call your food weird,” he told me. Well, you’re right, Senator, and I apologize. I salted my own oatmeal this morning and it was pretty damn good.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I'm not at all surprised that Senator Kennedy came to the convention – and his appearance was electrifying as usual. The Kennedy family as a whole has always been about public service and I hope that Ted will continue to lead them in this for many years to come.

    Thanks for writing about his appearance.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 25, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  2. Moureen

    Re: Dennis August 25th, 2008 1:28 pm ET

    Using the dead to score points on a message board is beneath contempt. Wise up!

    August 25, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  3. Claire

    Thanks again, Cindy for your wonderful insight. So, people will only care about what he says because he's been sick? Give me a break, recovering from cancer and the treatments is to be commended! If he gets an extra round of applause for that then he deserves it. I'm betting you have no idea what going through a cancer treatment is like. Please think before typing.

    August 25, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  4. Presley

    I'm glad Ted Kennedy made it. Sadly, this could be his last convention.
    Say what you will, think what you will, a Democratic Convention without a Kennedy would not be the same.

    And, an oatmeal add-on, a dash of vanilla, blob of peanut butter.

    Have fun everyone, tell Anderson we missed him.

    August 25, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Teresa Chicago

    God Bless Kennedy I belief that Obama will catch the wind under his arms.We are talking here about not only history but about choosing president who wants peace in world, and have gift to lead this country.How -tell me how we can have MC Same- no computer and no economy knowledge 72 years old MC Same? We will have Nursing Home in White House!!! I pray every day – Go Obama GO!!!!

    August 25, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  6. Susan


    You can never take away Senator Ted Kennedy's loyalty to and the inspiration that he brings to the members of the Democratic Party. I wish him well !!!!!


    August 25, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Michelle

    Gosh you guys are so lame. There is already a new ad from
    the Obama campaign that is on youtube. Funny have not seen
    it on CNN. CNN : just mock Obama and refuse to say it is Barack
    Obama's convention and not the Clintons. CNN can not handle
    the truth.

    August 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Jacqueline, NY

    Oh, how wish I could be there. There is just so much history in the making to behold not to be there. I WISH THE BEST OF HEALTH TO OUR DEAR OLD SENATOR KENNEDY. I wish the Democrats could truly be one, for once. I wish for PEACE. I WISH FOR EMPLOYMENT for myself and everyone longing and looking for employment. I WISH SENATOR BARACK OBAMA WINS THE PRESIDENCY. AND I wish I didn't envy everyone at the convention for being there.


    August 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  9. jt

    You right it is just a show!

    I am just glad that Kennedy is OK!

    Vote McCain.

    August 25, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  10. Wendy

    Nice to see some coverage of Ted instead of 24/7 of the Clintons. He is fighting for his life but puts his country first. Too bad others won't put their anger & hatred aside to look at the bigger picture.

    August 25, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  11. Michelle

    Are Obama staffers and supporters banned from CNN?
    The blogsphere says all of your partisan pundits are tied
    to the Clintons, Bush, McCain and Romney or the RNC ?
    There are even pictures of the Time Warner boss shaking
    hands with John McCain. If this is true, how can CNN be
    objective ?

    August 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm |
  12. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Why all this talk about disunity at the Dem Convention without 'BALANCING' with 1/3 of the Party NOT showing up at the GOP one; AND the question as to whether Limbaugh or McCain will be running it?
    Will Hagee and Parsley be there?
    Just WAIT until HRC gets Health Portfolio! The Clintons are in on the plan with Obama and Dean to see who are the most disloyal Dems.
    The last ones to pledge, will be the first ones out. Wolfson should be selling cars.
    (If CNN really was 'balanced', the war dead scroll at the bottom of the screen would include Iraqi and Afghan dead also!!!)

    August 25, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
  13. Dennis

    Maybe he'll whisper a little prayer for Mary Jo Kopechne.

    August 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  14. LINDA

    what a wonderful article!!!!! thank you for sharing it with us all.

    August 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  15. JC- Los Angeles

    The real challenge that Obama faces at the convention is that he will be overshadowed by much stronger leaders and personalities including Michelle Obama, Ted Kennedy, Hillary and Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.

    If Obama was a born leader, he would have already been able to shake the Clintons and already defined why the American people should vote for him.

    I'm affraid that Obama may be the third or fourth most memorable Democrat at the convention and that is entirely the fault of the DNC.

    August 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  16. Cindy

    I'm glad to hear that Ted's health is good enough that he can travel that far to attend the convention. I just hope that he doesn't do too much and compromise his health.

    As far as him speaking. He'll just say the same old stuff that he always says. But this year he'll get more adulation because he is sick.


    August 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm |