'Top Line' -- The Life and Legacy of Ted Kennedy

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The political world came to a standstill today in remembrance of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy , with Democrats and Republicans offering tributes to the man and his historic Senate career.

On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today , Phil Johnston, a Kennedy family friend and a former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, connected the long Kennedy family history to the presidency of Barack Obama -- whose candidacy the senator boosted with a well-timed endorsement in the Democratic primary campaign.

“You can trace the whole history of that generation of the Kennedy family, from Jack Kennedy and his commitment to civil rights right through to Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama,” Johnston said . It “has that common theme of commitment of civil rights and justice for everyone.”

Johnston went on to say that it’s critical that Massachusetts change its law regarding Senate succession to ensure a quick replacement for Kennedy -- to provide another vote on behalf of the health care reform he so badly wanted to see pass.

“Wouldn’t it be a terrible tragedy that would compound the tragedy that happened last night, if we were to lose health reform by one vote -- which could very easily happen?” Johnston said. “We have 60 votes, 60 Democratic votes in the United States Senate on the Democratic side and we’re going to need every one of those votes. I don’t think the Democrats should apologize for making sure that Sen. Kennedy’s wishes are fulfilled. . . . I anticipate that the legislature and the government will make that happen.”

Click HERE to see the interview with Phil Johnston.

ABC’s Cokie Roberts told us that Kennedy’s death may change the political dynamics in Washington in favor of reform -- depending on the lessons Democrats draw from his example.

“The real question is what lesson do they take from it?” Roberts said. “Do they take the lesson of the actual Ted Kennedy, the man who would probably be saying at this point, ‘Let’s just get a bill. You know, we can add to it later, we can worry about a public option and all of that stuff later, let’s just do something that helps a whole lot of people now and then we can add to it.’ ”

She added: “The other lesson they might take is to go with the liberal lion and say ‘Oh, we can’t compromise at all,’ in which case they could easily end up with no bill.”

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