It was an intimate gathering at Ted Kennedy's home in Washington--just the senator, his colleague Max Baucus, and three senior staffers who worked with them on health care. Kennedy, who loved historical artifacts, pulled out an original version of the Federalist Papers that his wife, Vicki, had given him as a gift. He also demonstrated one of the home's architectural quirks: a hidden bar, accessible through a secret door in the sitting-room bookcase.
But soon, as discussion turned to President Obama's health care agenda, Kennedy turned serious and wistful. He had waited years for the moment--and spent the previous twelve months preparing for it. But time was now the enemy. The longer it took to get reform through Congress, the less likely Congress would be to pass the legislation--and the less likely Kennedy would be around to witness it. Less than a year before, physicians haddiagnosed him with terminal brain cancer. He'd vowed to fight it, but he was coming to grips with political reality and his own mortality. "There was a sense of urgency in Kennedy's voice," one of the guests would later recall. "You could sense just how committed he was to getting this done, no matter what happened to him."