Newsweek article and interview by Sarah Kliff

Pinpointing the moment that defines Edward M. Kennedy's 45-year Senate career is, to say the least, a bit of a challenge. The Massachusetts senator has played critical roles in legislation ranging from his first bill, an overhaul of the American immigration quota system, up through No Child Left Behind and the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007; his political allies easily span the political spectrum. But his biographer, Adam Clymer, believes there is one moment that stands out as particularly telling. In 1982 Kennedy had lost a presidential bid in the prior cycle and was toying with the possibly of another run in 1984. After dabbling in some campaign planning, Kennedy made up his mind: he would remain a senator. "At that point he committed himself to the Senate … That's the moment that he put himself on the path to becoming what I think of as the most effective lawmaker of the 20th century," says Clymer, who in 1999 wrote "Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography."

NEWSWEEK: Kennedy has spent over four decades in the Senate. What is his legacy?

Adam Clymer: He is someone who believes he knows what the Democratic Party should stand for and has done his best to ensure that it does. One example of that was in 1995 [after] the GOP had just won sweeping control of the House and the Senate. Democrats were having a meeting discussing approach. One of the issues was whether they should support an increase in the minimum wage. Some people were for it; some were against it. And then his junior colleague from Massachusetts, John Kerry, said, "Supporting this will make small business unhappy with us." And Kennedy cut him off and shouted, "If you don't believe in raising the minimum wage, you don't deserve to call yourself a Democrat."

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