(CNN) - Barack Obama minced no words in talking about Senator Ted Kennedy on this day when we learned that the Massachusetts Democrat has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. “It’s heartbreaking,” Obama told me in an interview. “I had just spoken to Ted two days ago, right after the seizure, and he seemed in great spirits.”
It has been a roller coaster of emotions for Obama and so many other close friends of Kennedy since Saturday morning when we first learned that Kennedy had been rushed to the hospital with “stroke-like” symptoms. That was devastating. But then, we were told it wasn’t a stroke but a seizure. Many people took a collective sigh of relief. We wished him a speed recovery. But now, the news is back to devastating.
“We are all shattered by the news today,” Obama told me. But he insisted that Kennedy is a fighter, and will fight this battle. “And it’s our job now to support him in the way that he’s supported us for so many years.”
I asked Obama what Kennedy has meant to him personally. “I think you can argue I would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate, had it not been for some of the battles that Ted Kennedy has fought,” he said, referring specifically to the civil rights movement in the United States. “So not only is he a personal friend, not only has he been among the most important supporters during the course of this campaign, but he’s somebody who always has a kind word to say, always has good humor, even with his adversaries.” Obama called him “a great role model.”
As someone who has interviewed Senator Kennedy many times over the years, I can affirm he is indeed a fighter. We had some lively exchanges – as he had with so many reporters. I can also affirm that he has worked so hard to create a working relationship in the Senate not only with his Democratic colleagues but with his Republican colleagues as well. He has been a truly effective legislator.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Kennedy and his family. We wish him only the best.