JAMES ROTH: Good afternoon. I'm James Roth, Deputy Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. On behalf of Tom McNaught, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and all of my Library and Foundation colleagues, I thank you for coming, and acknowledge the generous support of our underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums: lead sponsor Bank of America, Raytheon, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Boston Foundation, and our media partners, The Boston Globe and WBUR.
During these times of unprecedented polarization in our nation's capital, with our politicians receiving historic low approval ratings, Ira Shapiro's book, The Last Great Senate, reminds us of another, not so distant time when our elected officials worked together for a common good. For almost two decades -- from 1963 to 1980 -- this Senate occupied a unique role in our country, dealing with major issues such as civil rights, war and peace, and most notably presidential power. This Senate, argues Shapiro, had moral authority, working with presidents when possible, holding them accountable when necessary, the Great Senate provided ballast, gravitas and bipartisan leadership for America during the crisis years of the 1960s and 1970s.
What made this Senate great? It was a generation who shared the experience of World War II, which profoundly influenced their lives and shaped their public service. Yet, the Great Senate also drew talented and ambitious young staffers who were attracted "by the idealism and excitement of John Kennedy's Presidency and later by their commitment to civil rights or their opposition to the Vietnam War and Watergate."
As Shapiro writes, "It was no accident that the staff of the Great Senate included young men and women who would be future Senators and Congressional leaders: George Mitchell, Tom Daschle, Susan Collins, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, Fred Thompson, Tom Foley, Jane Harman and Norm Dicks. Above all, this Senate, Shapiro believes, "worked on the basis of mutual respect, tolerance of opposing views, and openness to persuasion in the search for bipartisan solutions."
But as with every era of great promise, the end inevitably comes. Shapiro notes that the end of the Great Senate occurred on January 3, 1981, the day when the new Senate convened. On that day, writes Shapiro, "many arrived without any political accomplishments to speak of and left six years later with that record intact." [laughter]
After graduating from Brandeis, Ira Shapiro came to Washington as a summer intern for Senator Jacob Javits, the liberal Republican from New York. Following law school at the University of Pennsylvania, he went to work for Senator Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin Democrat, where he remained for the next 12 years in a variety of senior positions. He was the Deputy Issue Coordinator for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign and later worked in the Clinton Administration. He is presently an international trade lawyer in Washington, DC. I should also mention that the book is on sale in our Museum store, and Mr. Shapiro will be signing copies in Smith Hall lobby after the Forum.
Lincoln Chafee was elected as Rhode Island's first Independent candidate for Governor of Rhode Island in November 2010. Inspired by the path of his father, John Chafee, he entered politics in one election in 1985 as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, then went on to serve four years on the Warwick City Council, nearly four two-year terms as Mayor of Warwick, and seven years as United States Senator. He graduated from Brown University, where he also served as Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University's Watson Institute for International Studies. He is the author of Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President.
Tom Daschle was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1978, where he served for eight years. He was then elected to the US Senate and eight years later became its Democratic leader, making him one of the longest serving Senate Democratic leaders in history and the only one to serve twice as both Majority and Minority Leader. In 2007, he joined with former Majority Leaders George Mitchell, Bob Dole and Howard Baker to create the Bipartisan Policy Center, an organization dedicated to finding common ground on some of the pressing public policy challenges of our time. Today, he is a Special Policy Advisor to the law firm of Alston & Bird.
Our moderator is Peter Canellos, editor of The Boston Globe's editorial page. Previously he had been the Globe's Washington bureau chief and the author of the "National Perspective" column since 2003. He was the editor of the Globe's seven-part series on Mitt Romney in 2007, as well as the Globe's seven-part series on the life of Ted Kennedy.
Please welcome to the stage Ira Shapiro, Lincoln Chafee, Tom Daschle and Peter Canellos. [applause]
PETER CANELLOS: Thank you so much, Jamie. And I want to add my own assessment of Ira's wonderful book. It's really a great resource and anybody who's interested in the Senate is going to learn a lot from this book.
You call it, Ira, The Last Great Senate, the implication obviously being that there haven't been any great senates since then. Just to kick off the discussion, why don't you give us your own assessment of what makes a senate great, what makes a senator great, and why we haven't had one for the last 32 years.
IRA SHAPIRO: Thanks for that starting question. [laughter] When you start working on a book of this sort, which I started in 2008, I did it at the time because the Senate had become virtually unrecognizable to me, unrecognizable to those of us who grew up in the Senate of the '60s or the '70s. So when you start working on the book, you have to deal with the threshold question: Did it only seem great because I was there? Or did it only seem great because I was young? And as I got into it, I discovered in fact the Senate of the '60s and the '70s was very different from the sorry Senate of today, but it was also different from what had come before it.
The truth is it was a rare convergence of very, very capable and committed public servants – starting with the World War II greatest generation and those who followed them closely – dealing with the troubles of the times and great issues of the times, but also the fact that we had five presidents who failed to serve two terms in a row and the senators came together and rose to many challenges. It's a rare period when the Senate was at the cutting edge of everything that was going on in the country.
I called it The Last Great Senate. If you Google "Great Senate," you will find nothing except my book. [laughter] So arguably it was the first Great Senate. But the notion of looking at the Senate as a whole, very talented and capable individuals who worked together in an extraordinary way is part of what the book is about.
PETER CANELLOS: Was it the product of a confluence of historical events? Or was it simply that the senators of that time were more public-spirited than today's senators?
IRA SHAPIRO: Well, first, I think many of the senators of today are public-spirited. I think they came to Washington to do good things for the country. I think they're in a Senate that is not a healthy ecosystem. Basically, I believe that the Senate of the '60s and the '70s was an unusually healthy environment. It started with the World War II generation. These were men – and they were virtually all men at the time – who shared a sense of common purpose, a common experience. They came out of the war with a faith in the country, a faith in government, a confidence in themselves. Because they had that feeling of confidence in the country, they could face its weaknesses and try to correct them. So you see these people coming into office in the '50s, the '60s, and then the '70s. Everybody's different, but as I wrote in the book, men that had gone into the Battle of the Bulge or Normandy didn't find it that difficult to cast a hard vote every now and again.
If you wanted to pick a good representative of that Senate -- although he came toward the later period -- Governor's Chafee's father was very much that kind of person, an incredible public servant, a war hero in both World War II and Korea. His entire career was characterized not just by the fact that he was progressive, but everyone knew he was always going to do the right thing and follow his views. So there were many of those people like that.
PETER CANELLOS: In the introduction to your book, you talk about you and a group of friends of yours from the great Senate days getting together during the Bush years and bemoaning the lack of prominence of the Senate during that period. And Senator Daschle, you obviously were the Majority Leader during that period; you were charged with making the Senate work. Does what Ira says ring true to you as a critique of the more recent Senate?
TOM DASCHLE: I think it does, but I think times have changed so dramatically, and part of the reason they've changed is the media. I think in large measure the media is a lot different than what it was. It used to be the media was the referee, and now it's a participant and because they're participatory in politics, they are catalytic in bringing about this polarization, to a point where – I've seen polls – when you ask the American people, "Do you want your member of Congress to stand their ground and defend their principle, or do you want them to find common ground?," it's about evenly divided today.
Especially on the Republican side, there's an ideological fervor around standing your ground and holding to your principles, and not compromising and doing everything you can to the last moment, and not to give in to the other side. That mentality is very much a part of the landscape politically. We see it playing out right now in Texas. You have a primary where two candidates from the right and the far right are running against each other, and it looks like -- at least right now I'm told -- that the candidate on the farther right is likely to win.
So that's part of the reason why I think the landscape is so different. I hope we can get into this a little bit, the whole environment in Washington is different and I blame the airplane for that. The reason I do is because it's made it so much easier for people to leave the city. You don't have the opportunity to get to build the relationships like you did back then as much. We had airplanes back in the '70s. [laughter] Not as fast and not as frequent. I think it's because the airplane has accommodated members' schedules to the point where they leave on Thursday, they come back on Tuesday. You can't run a country like this on Wednesdays but that's in essence, what we're required to do. That, I think, is a second factor, the degree to which people are no longer there.
I'm told, and I can't confirm this, but I was told not long ago that not one newly elected member of Congress moved their family to Washington after the last election because it was politically incorrect to do so. The last thing you want to be charged with is becoming a Washingtonian or having Potomac Fever or doing anything that would disassociate you from your constituency. So they leave their families at home, they fly home on Thursdays and really never develop the chemistry that we had in the '70s.
PETER CANELLOS: When you mention the media, there are two critiques out there. One is with the rise of cable television and opinionated cable television at night, they've become kind of enforcers of ideology in a way. But the other change is that you used to have a Washington press corps that was as much anchored in Washington as the Senators were, and they could be part of the relationship to some degree, too.
Now in Ira's book, he praises at a couple of points committee chairmen who said behind the scenes to their colleagues, essentially, "Look, for political purposes, I have to vote against this, or I have to be objecting to this, but we'll find a way to get it through." Ira, you praise that as a sign of statesmanship. You wouldn't get away with that today, even if we did not have an ideological media. If you simply had a more intrusive media, a more plangent media, that bluff would be called; the person who votes against something but allows it to go through, it would be known.
So which is the problem? Is it the ideology of the media, or just the intrusiveness of the media?
TOM DASCHLE: I'd say it's more the latter. Transparency is always a good thing in any democracy, but there is a downside to transparency. I look at the cameras in the two chambers as my best illustration of that. It used to be, back in the '70s, prior to the time we had the C-SPAN cameras that everybody gave their speeches and talked to one another. Now, everybody comes to the floor and they don't talk to one another; they talk to the cameras and something changes in your demeanor. You become more hyperbolic. You want to throw out that red meat to your constituency. Whether it's in a committee room or on the floor, you're more inclined to participate in sort of a national stage debate, rather than this personal, interactive relationshipbuilding that comes when the cameras weren't there.
I tell the story, and I probably shouldn't, but I always find it so memorable. During impeachment – we had to go through that awful experience in the Senate of impeachment – for about two weeks we had a practice where we turned the cameras off at 6:00 and had what we called an executive session. It was the most compelling, most moving, most memorable series of speeches that I think I've ever heard in the entire time I was in the Senate, in part because the cameras weren't there. And in part, you could create the candor and the truthfulness and the honesty that only comes when you know you're talking to a smaller group of people, and you can be intimate and you can be more revealing. We've lost that opportunity to be that open and frank with one another, in part because of the cameras.
PETER CANELLOS: Governor Chafee, we've heard both Senator Daschle and Ira allude to the idea that the big changes have been on the Republican side, that more or less the Democrats over the last 30 or 40 years have marched in place. To some extent, they've become a little more conservative, probably, over time. But the Republican Party has gone way to the right, and the new right has taken over. You've talked about this; it was a big facet of your time in the Senate.
Is this really a Republican problem? Or is it a bipartisan problem?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Well, first of all, Senator Daschle's absolutely right. I think the two things he was talking about -- the jet travel so that the Senators aren't there on weekends, joining up and socializing as it was in the old days, and then the TV cameras -- are really important factors.
To your question, yes, the Republican Party, I think with John Tower's election in the '60s, the first Republican to win in the South and then in North Carolina, Jesse Helms winning, then over time the South turning from the '60s solid Democrat. Republican was the party of Lincoln; there was no way a Republican's going to be elected in the South.
When I was there in the early 2000s, I think the open seats were John Breaux in Louisiana was retiring, a Democrat from Louisiana; Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida; Fritz Hollins, a Democrat from South Carolina retiring. There were a couple of others. Republicans won them all. That was the switch of the power of the Republican Party to the Deep South. It just changed from Ira's time when it was Jacob Javits and Mark Hatfield and Chuck Percy, Northern Republicans. It was much different.
And the agenda changed correspondingly. Social issues became more important. There's very few of us from New England left. Olympia's leaving; Senator Snowe is leaving. I left the party. And Norm Coleman, Republican from Minnesota, defeated. You just can't win unless you're from the far right anymore as a Republican. It's a big change. Now the South is the Republican stronghold and some of the mountain states.
PETER CANELLOS: What happened in the North? People associate modern Republicanism with a suburban, professional constituency, a lot of doctors and lawyers, a lot of people who were skeptical of Democratic union backing, Democratic machines in cities, that kind of thing, but were liberal on social issues and were not as anti-government as some other people. Are they all Democrats now and the Republicans have more of the working class constituency or made some inroads into that constituency? Is it just a shift and moderate Republicans got axed out?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I think you can find many of us camping under overpasses, [laughter] and holding up signs saying, "Need a home." I'm sure if you ask Senator Snowe and Senator Coleman from Minnesota, Senator Gordon Smith from Oregon, who lost their races just by virtue of the party affiliation – we just cannot vote for a Republican in Oregon, for instance – they'd probably say "we are homeless." Some are moving to be Democrats. I became an Independent.
IRA SHAPIRO: I certainly agree with all the points that Tom and Governor Chafee have made.
There's no doubt that the Republicans moved to the right, which I consider to be a series of lurches to the right. Each time you think you can't go any further, it goes further, from '80 to '94, to the Tea Party, et cetera. I think that's absolutely true.
There's a big difference, though, between people who come to the Senate and become committed to the Senate and working in the Senate as opposed to those who are there simply to obstruct government. For instance, I didn't agree with very many things that Senator Tower, John Tower of Texas, stood for, or Barry Goldwater. But they believed in the Senate. They understood that the Senate was there – and I call it sort of an unspoken oath -- we're here as Senators to focus primarily on the national interest. Yeah, we're members of a party, we represent our states. But our responsibility is to national interest, number one.
Number two, they had a concept of the Senate as a body that was supposed to take collective action. So no matter how important your agenda was, at a certain point it was time to stop debating. It was time to reach what Tom would call a principled compromise. They worked in a different way.
Those two fundamental aspects of the Senate were very important and we've been losing them for quite a while. I have singled out in my book Jesse Helms, because I think that he really did represent a change from before and later on, it did accelerate.
So when you look at the situation today … I have to say my publisher said to me at one point, "Why don't you write about the Republicans moving to the right?" Well, I wanted the contract, but I was thinking to myself, why would I want to write about anything that obvious? The truth is there has been that movement to the right. There's also been, however, a calculated strategy by recent leaders to run the Senate on a more hyperpartisan basis.
Republican leaders do not accept the legitimacy – well, legitimacy is a bad word -- but do not really accept the results of the election of Barack Obama. We're very conscious of it with President Obama because we were in a time of national economic crisis. But in fact President
Clinton, when he was first elected, got virtually no cooperation from the Republicans either. So to that extent, I do believe it's a Republican problem and I do believe that more of the people that are coming to the Senate don't have the right concept of the Senate.
The one thing I'll add though is that I've talked to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who are as angry and frustrated about the Senate as the public is; they actually want to do some things and I think they have to take it upon themselves, to some extent, to stand up to their leaders and make the Senate work differently.
TOM DASCHLE: There are two other factors I think we should put on the table, somewhat institutional factors. One is that the control of the House and Senate goes back and forth a lot more frequently now. What has happened as a result of that frequency and the change… In fact, when I was introduced, it was noted that I was Majority Leader twice and Minority Leader twice. That had nothing to do with me as much as it had to do with the fact that the Senate was going back and forth. So when that happens, control becomes so much more important. You're less and less likely to help the other side because it might benefit them, and who's going to retain control after the next election. So why cooperate if it's going to help them?
It used to be control of the Senate was the means to the end. Now, control of the Senate is almost the end in of itself and that is very problematic in terms of creating the right environment within which to govern and find common ground.
The other thing, we've gone for almost a half-hour and we haven't talked about the word money yet. Money is a huge, huge problem. The money race is getting worse by the year. A typical United States Senator has to raise $5,000 every single day of his or her term; 5,000 just to stay competitive. In this election cycle, at the federal level we're going to spend over $8 billion. And just in 2008, it was under $3 billion. So we'll almost triple the amount of money that we're spending.
What a member of Congress, especially a Senator, finds himself is locked in a room about a fraction of the size of this stage, dialing for dollars. A typical United States Senator will spend two-thirds of his or her time in the last two years, if it's a competitive race, doing nothing but fundraising. So that also undermines this environment within which the Senate should legislate. It's huge; it's almost impossible to overemphasize how critical that money factor is in what we're dealing with today.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I'd like to add to that, too. In preparing for this, I was trying to think of some races that affected America. In New Jersey, there was a four-decade-long politician – I believe his name was Gormley – and he voted for the assault weapon ban; he was for the ban of assault weapons and the NRA came after him. And to Tom's point, you have to raise the money. You take a courageous vote; he was the only Republican in the New Jersey, legislature, the only Republican to vote for this ban and the NRA came after him.
That's the new phenomenon: the groups that can raise the money. He lost his race for Governor, he lost his race for Congress. He was in between terms, so he stayed in the New Jersey Senate and then lost his race in the primary for the Senate because that NRA money was pouring in.
PETER CANELLOS: Senator Daschle, just going back to one of the things you had said. You talked about the control seesawing back and forth for the Senate. You were the Democratic Leader in 2000/2001 when we were coming off a disputed Presidential election and the Senate was 50/50. I remember at the time there was some talk that the Senate was actually cooperating rather well during that period.
Now, you would think that might be a moment of unity rather than a moment of partisanship. Looking back, were there things that could have been done differently, that could have been a way to set up more of a bipartisan control or a way of avoiding the spoils going only to one side?
TOM DASCHLE: It's interesting. We were talking about this a little bit before the program started. Any time the United States is enduring some physical duress or crisis of national security that has to do with our physical security, I believe we come together, whether it's World War II, by and large or 9/11. I mean, you may or may not remember, but we all stood on the steps of the Capitol the night of 9/11. I remember holding hands with Republican members and singing God
Bless America and everybody proclaiming themselves not to be Democrats or Republicans, but Americans. But that was because we were under what we viewed to be a very serious threat. Unfortunately, that spirit dissipates very quickly. And it did again because we evolved from a debate about response to 9/11 to a debate about the tax cuts that the President had proposed. That became very, very divisive, of course. So whatever harmony, whatever collective sense of chemistry there was, didn't last very long.
I look back and one of the things that I think we probably do too much of these days is hold caucus meetings. I'm sure everybody knows what a caucus is, but it's one party gathering and having a meeting. Lyndon Johnson, if you read the Caro books, Lyndon Johnson only had one caucus meeting a year. Now, Republicans and Democrats have two caucus meetings a week and they really become pep rallies. You go to the floor charged up, ready to take on the other side, and it's more like a sporting event than it is a legislative environment within which to find common ground. So more joint caucuses, or fewer caucuses of any kind, I think might be a small way to start moving forward and creating a more conducive atmosphere.
PETER CANELLOS: Governor Chafee, you were in a lot of those caucus meetings as the Republican Party in the Senate was getting more and more conservative, and you were more and more isolated. What was it like? How'd you function?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I had my food tested. [laughter] Actually, I enjoyed standing up in those caucus meetings and at least explaining my point of view before I went on the floor and voted against the caucus, and I think I got respect from my colleagues for that, which helped me when I did have a primary from the far right, funded by Club for Growth, who can raise, just like the NRA, enormous amounts of money; my colleagues stuck with me. So it was an opportunity. At first, it was very uncomfortable to go in. The first time I stood up, you could hear the tinkling of the china stop as people dined – because these caucuses are lunch. But then I got more comfortable at it. I think I earned some respect, at least for stating my point of view before taking a vote.
So there was some value. But I think Senator Daschle's right: you do come out of there ready to charge. That's the whole point of it, to get everybody pumped up: You're on the team, these are the votes we're going to take. No gay marriage. People can have as many assault guns as they possible want. Come on, team, let's go!
PETER CANELLOS: Was that the way it was on the Democratic side, too? You were in charge of those caucuses, weren't you?
TOM DASCHLE: I look back and I regret that we didn't. But that's the mentality that there is. If you're the majority, it's not as much as when you're in the minority that that happens, especially because if you're in the majority you need 60 votes. So you're going to have to reach out to the other side to a certain extent. You still pump up your caucus and your members, but you also know that somehow you've got to find 60 votes and it's rare that either party has 60 votes, at least in recent times. So it's a little less so on the majority side when you're in the majority. But it happens on both sides.
IRA SHAPIRO: I do think leaders make a difference in terms of the tone they set.
Notwithstanding all the changes in politics, part of what my book suggests is that the Senate of the '60s and the '70s really reflected quite a bit. Mike Mansfield, who followed Lyndon Johnson, was the leader for 16 years and in the beginning, he was criticized as a weak leader, he couldn't keep the Senate going. What he succeeded in doing was building a Senate that was based on mutual trust and respect and bipartisanship, basically. He had breakfast every day with George Aiken, his best friend, the Republican from Vermont. And so bipartisanship radiated through the Senate. He basically kept the seniority system, but he empowered the younger people; he encouraged them to come forward and he created a type of culture in the Senate that I believe later leaders – Senators Byrd and Baker, when they came in – were able to continue prior to 1980. And I think that, if you look now at what we have– not to be too critical of any one individual, but I'm often asked, "Wasn't President Obama naïve to think that he could transcend partisanship?"
I say, well, call me naïve for thinking that the national narrative about us coming together in crisis was true. And that when we had a national economic catastrophe and a crisis, with two wars on and a President who had just been elected, I thought he was entitled to believe that he would get some minority cooperation. Our system depends on some minority cooperation. We don't have a parliamentary system. And yet, he got no cooperation.
It’s still easy for me, despite all the difficulties, to envision that a different Republican leader would have moved his caucus in a different direction than Senator McConnell did. I think that his behavior is such a contrast from one of my heroes, Howard Baker, who I write about a lot in the book. At the beginning of my book, Howard Baker becomes the Minority Leader dealing with Jimmy Carter, the new President. Carter decides he's going to try to negotiate new Panama Canal treaties. Baker's reaction is, "This was an unwelcome development. Why now? And why me?" And his staff says to him, "Senator, you're never going to become President if you support these treaties." He says, "But what's in the national interest?" And he supports the treaties. The gap between a Howard Baker and the current leader is not small; it's like the Grand Canyon, basically.
PETER CANELLOS: But Ira, if one of Mitch McConnell's supporters were here, if a conservative voter or a conservative politician were here, they would note that in your book, when you refer to the Great Senate, there are a lot of big pieces of legislation that you describe as landmark and historic and important. So you're measuring the greatness in terms of legislation. If you are a conservative who believes in a smaller government, they would say, "Can't we be great, too?" Can the Senate be great if it doesn't pass big pieces of legislation?
IRA SHAPIRO: Well, what I think the Senate should be doing is dealing with the problems of the time. By the late '70s that I write about, the strong, big government liberalism of the '60s, the tide had run out on it. But there were still significant problems to be dealt with and the Senators stepped up and dealt with those kinds of problems.
I don't think the problems that we face now are identical to the kinds of problems or lead themselves to the kind of solutions we had then. But I do think that every Senate leader ought to recognize the responsibility of trying to work with the elected President. The Senate has a special role and a relationship to the President and the Presidency. What I see missing in the Republican leader now is any respect for the President or the Presidency. They're not actually supposed to be co-equal leaders; we had an election. You're on this 40-yard line as opposed to that 40-yard line, but it's supposed to work with some degree of cooperation.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I'd also just like to note that Ira's examples of Mike Mansfield, a Democrat from Montana, had been there for years and years, and Aiken, a Republican from Vermont. I know Senator Tester's a Democrat from Montana, but it's harder and harder to … The country's getting so polarized geographically. Your example is a perfect illustration of how that has changed. I don't think there are too many Republicans left in Vermont, and I know Senator Tester is still a Democrat from Montana, but it's turning more and more Republican, the mountain states and the South.
PETER CANELLOS: Senator Daschle, one thing in Ira's book that is sort of only alluded to is the fact that it was right at the height of the Cold War. Your career spans the Cold War and beyond. Was some of that deference to the President that sense that we were in this great polarizing struggle? The President was the leader of the free world. There was more than just who wins this particular day at stake. Can we ever get that back? Or is that just a facet of the changing times, changing dynamics, changing agendas? We no longer have that threat to unify us.
TOM DASCHLE: To a certain extent, as I think we've alluded a couple of times, it's dangerous to compare two eras and try to make too much of a thing of how similar or dissimilar they are; it's a little bit of apples and oranges. I think Ira's exactly right. You had men, largely men, who had the experiences of World War II, and the sacrifice and the incredible collective consensus that came as a result of that experience that they were using as their basis. That experience was so much a part of their legislative outlook and their legislative perspective.
The current class of Senators has none of that. None of them were involved in any kind of a national effort of that kind; 9/11 is as close as it gets. And really, it was a totally different experience. But as I said before, I think now the polarizing factor is that the electorate itself has changed so much. In the '50s, of course, we had the McCarthy period, and that was very polarizing. There have been polarizing experiences throughout history, so we shouldn't be surprised that we're facing yet another one now. But I think the question is what kind of leadership is it going to take to pull us out, just as we found in the '60s with Everett Dirksen and Lyndon Johnson? Can we find that leadership capacity that will allow us to move this country in a different era, in spite of what the electorate may currently be made up of?
PETER CANELLOS: One little factor that I think buttresses what you and what Ira say is that the Vietnam veterans in the Senate of both parties kind of get together on certain things; there's a little more comity I think among them.
IRA SHAPIRO: One thing I wanted to add, Peter. I wasn't suggesting that it's the role of the Senate to defer blindly to the President. Certainly, one reason I thought the Senate of the '60s and the '70s was great was because they tried to correct for Johnson's, I think, tragic intervention and enlargement of the Vietnam War. They tried to deal with Nixon's imperial presidency. So the best Senate is working with the President where possible -- improving his work sometimes, checking him when there's an excess. They're not perfect, but they're sort of doing a number of things that look like what substantial people would be doing. It's not blind opposition and obstruction right down the line.
The truth of the matter is Olympia Snowe from Maine worked hard on healthcare in 2009/2010. Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, worked very hard on financial regulation. At some point, they were told by the leader, "We're not trying to work this out. Our position is opposition, so read the memo and get with the program."
The other thing I would say – and I covered this a little – it goes to your question to Governor Chafee about what it was like to be in the caucus. Mansfield -- I won't say Johnson; Johnson had a way of working his will -- [laughter] Mansfield didn't put the screws to people. It wasn't the way it was done. Leaders would ask Senators to help them. But if they couldn't, they couldn't.
Starting in the '90s, things changed. John Danforth found that he was almost ostracized when he voted for the Clinton crime bill. Mark Hatfield was almost ostracized on the balanced budget amendment. Certainly, Governor Chafee in the Senate, Susan Collins, Olympia, a lot of pressure put on them. In the old days, Senate leaders wouldn't have done it, and Senators wouldn't have accepted it, which is one reason they didn't do it.
PETER CANELLOS: Governor Chafee and Ira, you both could weigh in on this question.
Let's say that you were a voter who's very, very frustrated with the state of the Senate right now and, like a lot of people in Massachusetts, a little bit left of center. You have a choice, like Massachusetts voters do this year, between Elizabeth Warren, who's a very qualified, articulate, strong-willed, but left wing partisan figure to some extent, and a Senator who is in fact identifying himself as a moderate Republican and touting his moderation, his willingness to work with people on all sides. Certainly, I'm not saying everybody agrees; I'm posing a question here. But it's an interesting choice. Do you put any value simply on being a moderate, on being willing to work with both sides? Or do you say, “Look, the game right now is who gets the most on both sides?” Or is there some third option, that you can be a very committed liberal or conservative but also be cooperative? What do you guys think?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: In 2000, my opponent in my race for the Senate tried to make the point,
"Don't vote for Linc Chafee, because his vote is going to be for Trent Lott for Majority Leader." He said that over and over again. But the public didn't think that the Senate was in play, and that argument didn't work. But ultimately, it turned out to be a 50/50 Senate, and he was right, my opponent was right. My first vote was, at that time, for Trent Lott.
Then in 2006, my opponent was saying – and here I was, to your point, voting in a moderate way, across the aisle, time and time again – my opponent was saying, "We need six seats to get control. We're halfway through Bush's second term; we have to get control of the Senate. I don't care how Linc Chafee voted, we need six seats." And it resonated, and I was bounced.
So it is what's your party affiliation, and to Senator Daschle's point, how the Congress is flipping, R/D, R/D, House and Senate. That's the argument that's being made I'm sure in many campaigns, just as it was unsuccessfully my first time and very successfully the second time.
PETER CANELLOS: But I'm sure, Governor Chafee, you've had people come up to you and say, "We love you. You were a great Senator …
LINCOLN CHAFEE: All the time.
PETER CANELLOS: "I voted for Whitehouse in 2006 just because of the national ..
LINCOLN CHAFEE: All the time, all the time. [laughter]
PETER CANELLOS: Do you feel angry, like they as voters are not living up to their responsibility? Or is that a reasonable choice, that, hey, it is from their perspective much better to have Democratic control.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Well, as it turned out, if I had won, then the Republicans would have controlled all those committees; that was the deciding race, they did get the six they needed. And I understood, I kind of understood. I'd rather have a check on that last two years of the Bush agenda, to be honest. I understood. I didn't think the Senate was in play, and that was the argument I was making: They're not going to get six seats; we're better off having somebody that's going to be in the majority delivering for your state.
PETER CANELLOS: Ira, do you have any thoughts?
IRA SHAPIRO: I'm smiling, because I ran in a race for Congress ten years ago where we made something of the same argument in Montgomery County, Maryland. We said, “Well, Connie Morella is a very nice woman. She's always been a very capable liberal Republican. Her first vote will be for the Republican leadership.” And once Bill Clinton wasn't there in the White House, she was sort of exposed and sort of isolated as a Republican. So a Democrat was able to win the seat. It wasn't me, by the way. [laughter] But it was a good Democrat.
But I would say, look, the Senate needs all kinds of people. It needs the powerful, intellectual, firepower of somebody like Elizabeth Warren, who I support because she really understands an important set of problems that our country has -- namely, the financial sector, the banking sector. At the same time, if she didn't win, if Scott Brown won, you would hope that he would be one of the Senators who would become a more moderate figure and would live up to that for a six-year term. But you just have to judge it case by case. And some of the strongest people over the years who had very strong views were also capable of principled compromise.
TOM DASCHLE: I have to agree with that emphatically. I had so many personal experiences with that. One of the people that I think of, as we're describing ideological support for the far right, I think of Dick Lugar, who is a very, very conservative person, but I can't think of anybody who was more accommodating, more accessible, more willing to talk to people on the other side. And as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee or ranking member, he had a fantastic personal relationship with his Democratic counterpart. Dick Lugar was the perfect example of how somebody can be very ideological, but yet very accommodating and very willing to find common ground.
The same with two of my heroes who are contemporaries and mentors, Bob Dole and George McGovern. Bob Dole and George McGovern created the school lunch program, two of the most ideological people I know on the far right and the far left, initially. But they found common ground, not only on school lunch but on a lot of other issues having to do with food and agriculture. Tom Harkin, an ideological Democrat, and Bob Dole created the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So I don't think ideological fervor has much to do with it. It's your demeanor. It's your willingness to come to the table, even though you feel passionately and strongly about the issues that you're prepared to defend.
PETER CANELLOS: Do you feel like Senators run on that position often enough? You've confronted this in South Dakota. People, especially in the Heartland, have an anti-Washington feeling. Now, it seems like there are a lot of Senators and politicians we all know who will say to their friends, "Look, I'm fighting the good fight here in Washington. I'm living up to my responsibilities." But when they get back home to campaign, they're as anti-Washington as the next guy, "I'm not part of that system. I am not one of George Bush's lackeys here." What would happen if more politicians went back and said, "Frankly, part of the job is looking after the national interest, and that's a way to effect my constituents, too"?
TOM DASCHLE: I actually lament the fact that Washington has become such a whipping boy, that we demean government, we demean the city, we demean the process by running the system down. I often think – and I'm sure you've all had a similar conversation – if we did that in the airline industry or in just about any other industry, we would have no confidence whatsoever any time we'd get on an airline because we'd all be thinking of the most negative thing we just heard. But that happens every single day in politics. And people on both sides and both parties do it; they run Washington down. And people's attitude and appreciation, it's no wonder Congress is at a 17% approval, in part because both sides have so terribly criticized Washington that most people have now come to that view. They've listened to that criticism and now believe it.
PETER CANELLOS: Now, I think is a good time to open up the discussion to questions. I know a lot of you have come and probably have strong views of your own, at least about Senator Brown. [laughter] But please, we have two microphones. We invite you to come and try to be as short and succinct as possible in asking your questions, just so that we can get more people to the podium. Please, you start.
QUESTION: Yes, Governor, I'm glad that you're here. My question is about Independent candidates running for the United States Senate kind of claiming a moderate position. How would that help, how might that hinder the United States Senate in getting the people's work done?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Well, I tell the story: I was watching the election in 2004 in my basement at whatever it was, 2:00 in the morning. Ohio came in for Bush and Cheney, and I knew that two years hence, my election, as I sat in my basement at 2:00 in the morning, my election was in deep, deep trouble. I knew that Rhode Islanders would be mad at the agenda; they wouldn't like my affiliation. So I thought, “Do I run as an Independent?” But the first question I would get would be, "Who are you going to caucus with as Independent?"
And I know that up in Maine they're asking Angus King, who's running, and he hasn't answered that. But I think the voters deserve an answer. And being in the majority for those last two years to deliver for Rhode Island, I would have had to say I'm going to caucus with the Republicans.
So that's the hard part about being a third party.
Joe Lieberman's an Independent, but everybody knows he's going to caucus with the Democrats. I think Bernie Sanders caucused with the Democrats. But that's the big question: you've got to deliver for your state and you've got to join either side.
QUESTION: If there were a group of six or eight Independent Senators, could they caucus together? Would they have to determine a caucus with one of the two parties?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Definitely if they were enough to control the leadership, or being so partisan that the votes are going right down party lines and you had a group of five/six that could vote either way, then you could deliver if you were an Independent blocker, whatever third party you were. Then you could deliver because you're critical to success of legislation. I think that's what it would depend on.
PETER CANELLOS: Governor Chafee, were you part of the bipartisan group that saved the filibuster for judicial nominations?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Yes.
PETER CANELLOS: How did that work out? This was a story when the Republicans at that time were very frustrated that Democrats were filibustering President's judicial nominees. And a bipartisan group of 12, was it?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Senator Frist, Majority Leader Frist had called a vote to abolish the right to filibuster. And it was called the nuclear option because the Democrats had pledged, if this occurs, we're not going to participate – I forget exactly what, Senator Daschle -- but we're not going to participate in it.
TOM DASCHLE: I had left the Senate at that point, but it meant actually overruling a position of the chair. Usually you have to go through a rules change, which requires a two-thirds vote. This would have only required a majority vote, overruling whatever decision the chair made with regard to the rule itself. That's mostly where the nuclear notice came from.
PETER CANELLOS: We're going to blow up the Senate.
TOM DASCHLE: What the Democrats have said is they would simply not participate in the legislative process at all, just shut the Senate down completely if that nuclear option and overruling the chair would have taken place.
PETER CANELLOS: This was a moment when moderates asserted themselves as Independents. Why did that not hold after?
LINCOLN CHAFEE: John McCain was critical. He was a part of that, as the Republicans. It was Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the usual suspects. But there were some others. And we all said, 14 -- seven Republicans, seven Democrats, John Warner was part of it from the Republican side – that was the most fun because we were working together. We all said that, all 14. and it shows that there is a yearning separate from the partisan pressure to have some accomplishments, a lot of satisfaction in that. [applause]
QUESTION: Just by coincidence, my question has to do with a supermajority, a filibuster level of 60 votes needed to pass something in the Senate. This is a question for Senator Daschle. Why is that? I mean, the Constitution just calls for a majority vote, and yet all the votes now seem you have to have 60 votes instead of a simple majority.
TOM DASCHLE: Well, the Constitution actually doesn't address the issue of the percentage of votes required. These are Senate rules and Senate tradition that started with the creation of the Senate all the way back in 1789. And one of the traditions was unlimited speech in the Senate. We only came to a cloture concept in 1917, ironically advocated by Woodrow Wilson who had written his college thesis against cloture and for unlimited speech in the Senate in the 1800s, late 1800s.
But in 1917 we established the concept of cloture, which is if you've got at that point two-third -- 67 votes -- you could then finally bring the debate to a close. That was changed after the civil rights debate in the '60s. I believe it was '73. Ira may know.
IRA SHAPIRO: '75.
TOM DASCHLE: When was it? '75, where we dropped it from 67 votes to 60 votes and a three-fifths vote. But there have been discussions to change it even now, to find other changes in the rules. I actually don't feel that that's necessary. If we go back to what we did in the first 200 years … We do two things now, and I won't spend a lot of time talking about this, but we do two things differently.
One is we have what we call dual track, where if there's a filibuster on one bill, we put it aside and take up another bill while the time is running on the first bill. Well, now we not only dual track, we triple, quadruple and quintuple track when there are filibusters like that. In other words, we've made it less painful to go through a filibuster.
The other thing we don't require anymore is for a Senator to hold the floor, so you don't have the cots that we had in the '70s. Lyndon Johnson, if you read the Caro books, was famous for saying, "Go ahead and filibuster, but we're going to be on this bill in January and February and March. We're going to be on it the entire year if we have to, but we're going to get this bill done." Now that threat of any pain doesn't exist anymore, you don't have the all-night sessions. We need to go back to the all-night sessions. We need to go back to staying on the same bill and using the filibuster rules as they were originally designed. [applause]
PETER CANELLOS: I think it is sort of a mystery outside the Senate why Senators are so beholden to some of these rules. There's an anecdote at the end of Ira's book that is presented, where Birch Bayh has been defeated for reelection but he has been working for a long time in a bipartisan way with Dole to ease patent laws, to allow government-funded research to be part of the private sector. You call that one of the greatest bills, greatest pieces of legislation that's ever come out of the Senate, or one of the most consequential pieces that came out of the Senate.
It was being held up by Russell Long; one Senator put a hold on it. And at the end of the term he says to Senator Bayh, "My friend, you're leaving the Senate. You've earned this bill. I'm going to give it up." It's sort of a charming moment of comity, but why was Russell Long able to hold up the most consequential piece of legislation for so long? What's the argument for that, for the individual hold?
IRA SHAPIRO: Look, I never disagree with Senator Daschle on anything, but [laughter] I actually believe that some of the rules need to be rethought. I think that if the rules, as applied, are followed and lead to the kinds of abuses that we've seen – and by that I mean the individual holds. Look, I don't think the minority party should be subordinated; I think that's an important principle for the Senate. But I also don't think that one person or a couple of people ought to be able to obstruct the operation of the Senate.
Essentially, there's been a series of times where Senators have what I call cracked the code and figured out how to use the rules. That happened in the '70s when Jim Allen invested the postcloture filibuster. Robert Byrd's reaction – Byrd was the great expert on the rules – he was sort of horrified as he looked at what Allen was doing and he realized there was a problem because he was following the rules and he could abuse the rules.
That's what's happening now. The rules can be abused. I would have liked, this year, to have seen rule changes considered because we didn't know who was going to be in the majority or the minority. That's the time to sort of consider it, when you don't have a vested position. You need rules that are fair to the majority, the minority, the individuals, and to the President who supposedly, whoever he is, able to put his government in place. Right now we have nominees that are obstructed for absolutely no reason.
QUESTION: One of the great Senators of the so-called great age of the Senate was South Dakota's own James Abourezk. He was someone that was not as well known, but he's still going strong at 81. He recently wrote a very interesting article on the Middle East in which he raises a pertinent question about the subject tonight, in which he said that "what might happen to the solidly pro-Israel Congress, should their constituents discover that their Representatives and Senators are voting to sending taxpayer money to finance Israeli brutality and theft and theft of valuable water …
PETER CANELLOS: Is there a question coming?
QUESTION: Yeah. There's a little bit too much consensus, isn't there, on Israel these days, especially since Republicans, like Romney, are chasing AIPAC money just as much as Democrats always have? We could use some more dissenting voices on that subject in the Senate, such as Mr. Abourezk, couldn't we?
PETER CANELLOS: This is the power of certain lobbies. We were talking about this with the NRA and others. I assume, Ira, you can tell us the difference in the '70s.
IRA SHAPIRO: Actually, Tom's better qualified to discuss Senator Abourezk with whom he started his career.
PETER CANELLOS: He's in your book, too.
IRA SHAPIRO: Senator Abourezk was a very independent spirit and a free spirit who got tired of the Senate relatively rapidly. Every President we've had since Truman has been very supportive of Israel, and the Congress has certainly been supportive of Israel. There are differences between them, but I don't think it's a lobbying issue and I don't actually think that it has much to do with the changes in the Senate. I think it has to do with the perception of supporting Israel.
PETER CANELLOS: Thank you for the question.
QUESTION: So I'm a Millennial, and as a generation we're known for looking to achievement, being told we're special, but also being able to work in teams, which can work for or against us. What I'm worried about is, as a generation, we're looking for identities, politically, personally, professionally. But when it comes down to it, how do we create a sense of bipartisanship within our generation? [applause]
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Well, all the pessimism that we hear, I think there's some optimism. There's a new generation coming along, and they're going to demand things be conducted differently. And three cheers.
TOM DASCHLE: I agree with Linc. I have three young children – not young any longer, but younger, and they have a totally different attitude about the ideological fervor that you see so much of in people in older generations. I think you're going to see the lines blurred in a different way, generationally, and I've encouraged that.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Stay strong.
IRA SHAPIRO: I think that's right. When I was writing the book, I figured most of the readers would be my contemporaries. But I was actually hoping to reach the younger generation in the hope of showing them that not that long ago government actually worked, basically. And it can work again, despite the fact that there's no question everything's different. It's a much harder environment. I would always say it was easier to be a Senator in the '60s and the '70s than it is now. I think government can work, but people have to rise above the current political culture. Or change it.
PETER CANELLOS: And don't forget: back then there was a huge youth movement in the '60s and '70s.
TOM DASCHLE: Oh yeah, that was us. [laughter]
IRA SHAPIRO: When did everyone get so old? [laughter]
TOM DASCHLE: Get those voting percentages up from the 18-to-30s.
PETER CANELLOS: This does introduce one question, which is the campaign finance question. Young people running for politics, if they don't have a family name they can use to raise money, or money of their own, or in their family, how do they get into politics? You can't compete very easily.
TOM DASCHLE: Well, time and money are the two big factors in any campaign. The less time you have, the more money you need. When I ran -- I'm sure when Ira ran -- we spend a lot of time going door to door if you don't have a lot of money. I went to about 40,000 houses in 15 months and won by 14 months in South Dakota, which is 60% in South Dakota. [laughter] But that concept still exists. I think you've got to find ways to make up for the lack of resources.
But to your point, Peter, money is becoming so much more of a factor. That first race for the House in South Dakota cost me $350,000, roughly, and I was about $60,000 in debt when I got elected. My last race was $24 million. So that gives you some sense of what's happened just in one state.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: But at the local level, you can still go door to door and prevail, whether it's councilman, where I started, or state Representative, state Senator. You can knock on all the doors.
QUESTION: I hope to partially pay you back/bring you my own part of the conversation here. I have to admit, I am a former fervent Republican, but as you alluded to, unfortunately the politics has turned from a personal ideology to a homogeneous cookie cutter whether you be Democratic or Republican. And candidly, I'm sick of that.
So I was wondering: remember in the good old days when we did have third-party candidates, such as Teddy Roosevelt was Bull Moose Party, and what not. Is there any chance that thirdparty candidates can come back? Even though, yes, you do seem to have a very pessimistic idea about it. But if they were to come back, how would they do?
PETER CANELLOS: That's a very interesting question. Ira, you might have thought about this.
IRA SHAPIRO: Well, frankly, I think that some have written -- and I believe that it's true to some extent -- that this would have been a year that you would have expected a third-party candidate at the Presidential level. If you go back to Ross Perot in 1992, he got 19% of the vote at a time when there was less public dissatisfaction with each party.
And the group called, I guess it was No Labels, or the group that created a ballot slot, basically, for third-party candidates was hoping to have somebody come forward. Nobody did.
The truth is there are reasons that third-party candidates look promising at any given time, and then as November gets closer, they fade, because there's a great desire not to waste your vote on somebody. So until the day it happens and it's not regarded as a waste of a vote, they won't come forward.
PETER CANELLOS: There are certain states though, like Maine, like Minnesota, where there are third-party efforts that are routinely successful. Could either of you envision any of that happening on a broader scale across the country?
TOM DASCHLE: I think it depends on how much of an opening there is. Oftentimes, if one party just is not very reflective of the mood, the spirit within the state, you create an opening for an Independent to make a difference. You get a lot of defections from that party. So I think that's where the occasions arise. It's much harder to do nationally. I think even South Dakota's had that experience many years ago, but it doesn't happen often enough.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I'll also say, being an Independent, being a third party, I think about it all the time, especially my last experience running as an Independent. It was very, very difficult to raise money, because there's no apparatus out there and you just have to raise the money to be competitive.
So as someone that's thinking where is their party, is there any Libertarian that might fit with me? The Green Party might fit with me? Progressive, is there such thing as a Progressive? I'm looking for that. Because the reality is you have to have some apparatus to raise the money and also provide some grassroots support. But I haven't decided that anything fits yet, so I'm still Independent, which doesn't bring any apparatus to the electoral effort. But good question.
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Elizabeth Rich. I'm actually writing a book about a new third party, the Progressive Patriot Party, that incorporates a lot of the fiscal responsibility of the Republicans and socialized medicine, which we are way beyond needing. And it also has tort reform, which most Democrats will never do.
But my question is for someone to come forward at a third-party level, at a national level, don't you think we really have to do something about things like the electoral college and Citizens United? The problem now – and I see this a lot on Facebook and I share it amongst my friends and I have a lot of people who think very long and hard about politics. My mom worked for Michael Dukakis; she was asked to run his campaign in Wellesley the second time around as governor. So I was sort of raised Democrat.
But Lincoln Chafee, I've often admired your work. I admire it for many reasons. I did like Governor Weld; he's the only Republican …
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Help me start a party.
ELIZABETH RICH: Okay, we'll talk afterwards.
PETER CANELLOS: Is your point that the electoral college makes it more difficult for thirdparty candidates?
ELIZABETH RICH: It absolutely does because of the requirement to go everywhere and campaign. You have the media out there, you have the social media, and it's completely underestimated. I think that if you were to have each candidate draft their policies, draft their books, write out their platforms and have people read them – reading is fundamental; I'm a library trustee, I have been for 14 years. Read the platforms.
The idea that we are spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on election campaigns. Look what Britain does. They do it in a short period of time. They don't spend the money. The candidates stand on their own credentials.
I'm a Wellesley alum. Sometimes that can count for something if you're not too ambitious. But what I'd like to say is I really do think that one of the fundamental issues that we do face is campaign funding. Public funding of campaigns and the electoral college have both led it into such a thing where you're spending … I am a strong environmentalist. I have a degree is in …
PETER CANELLOS: Thank you, thank you. We'll let the panel …
ELIZABETH RICH: You're jetting around the country trying to buy electoral votes.
PETER CANELLOS: Thank you. Any thoughts on the electoral college?
TOM DASCHLE: It's one of those things where, like transparency, you've got to be aware of unintended consequences. I think of the nightmare we experienced in Florida in the year 2000 and how close it was.
One thing you can say about the electoral college is it brings finality to a vote in each state. If the Gore campaign had just decided to make a nationwide search to find votes in the other states to offset Florida, you can do that. There were some precincts in Ohio. There were a lot of precincts in Pennsylvania. So every election would turn out to be a vote search, if it's a close election, where you might be able to overturn it. The electoral college actually brings finality to it, where you don't have that. So you can argue that eliminating the electoral college is a good thing, but keep in mind unintended consequences sometimes play a huge role. And we'd want to think through that very carefully.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I do think under the Constitution that if a third party wins enough states to prevent the winner from getting, what is it, 270, then it goes to the House of Representatives. So it is very complicated if there were a third party. Ross Perot got 19%, but he didn't win any states. And George Wallace won some states, but it wasn't enough in '68 to prevent Nixon from getting the 270. But that's a chaotic outcome – into the House of Representatives to decide the Presidency.
QUESTION: I'm a physician who's been involved in healthcare reform for many years. I appreciate your perspectives, and I wanted to ask you about the power of the leadership. Not one Republican Congressman or one Republican Senator voted for the healthcare bill, and you would think that there'd be one or two [laughter], who either through personal experience or the wishes of their constituents would have seen it reasonable to vote for the healthcare bill. Yet, the leadership seemed to have such power. And Olympia Snowe, as you were discussing before, is an example.
Where does the power come to do that? Another example is also the fact that Don Berwick, who was the head of Medicare, he could not get confirmed, even though every medical organizing in the United States, essentially, supported him. Yet, he couldn't get confirmed because he once said that we have something to learn from the National Health Service in England. Where does that power come from?
PETER CANELLOS: I could direct that one to Ira, too, because you mentioned this in the 1970s, about the Panama Canal treaties, which you talked about and presented it sort of in a way that almost everybody who approached it in a non-ideological manner felt like we needed to do something to quell the disturbances in Panama and the disagreements in Panama with our control of the Canal. But everyone at the same time recognized that that can't be put together in a slogan.
Saying "We bought it, we paid for it, we're going to control it" carries the political day.
Like this gentleman was saying, Don Berwick was a terrific head of Medicare and anybody, Republican or Democrat, who studied this man … but the fact that he once said something positive about English medicine is a disabling factor? What can be done? What do you think, Ira? What happened with the Panama Canal treaties? Did they all learn a lesson there? Nobody's ever contemplated it since then.
IRA SHAPIRO: To be honest, I don't really think there's any way around expecting members of the Congress, and particularly the Senate, to exercise independent judgment and show character. In the Panama Canal treaties, Howard Baker, Frank Church, Paul Hatfield of Montana, they were people who were basically looking at real risk to their careers and being reelected -- Baker as President -- but real risk to their careers and they still did what was right. Certainly, Senator Daschle, when he ran in 2004, he bore the burden of being the Democratic leader at a time when it wasn't that popular in South Dakota. But he always did what was right and did what he thought he should be doing.
I think you have to count on people's character to do the right thing. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen more Senators tell the leaders that they're not going down the line with them on this. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee quietly, last fall, left the Republican leadership because he didn't think he was functioning as a Senator should, and he didn't think the leadership was functioning the way it should, or the Senate was. I'd like to see more things like that. If John McCain became John McCain again on a regular basis that would be a good thing. [laughter]
TOM DASCHLE: The question is where does the power come from? The caucus is the source of the power – the power to appoint you to a given committee and that's very important. Senators have this: they like to gravitate to certain committees – finance, appropriations, commerce. So that's the first thing. If you are not going to cooperate, you're probably not going to get on the committees you want. It starts with that.
Again, money. It used to be a Senator would only be on two committees, at most, three. Now they're on six and seven committees. Again, it has everything to do with raising money. Each committee has its fundraising base. So that's not the only reason, but there's a big motivation because each committee can help you raise the resources you need to make that $5,000 quota every day. So it starts with that. But I also think, as we were saying earlier, these caucuses gin up so much of this sporting spirit. Then it's the control of the Senate. They didn't want the Democrats to retain control. They certainly wanted to win it back.
I think it's partly the role of government and what is the appropriate role of government in healthcare. That was a big factor in dividing the two parties. Ironically, the President, when his base was advocating they would do a single-payer, he took a Republican plan that was offered in 1994 as the basis for the plan that ultimately was passed. And when they said, "We should have a public option, at least," he said, "No, we're not going to have a public option, there's an insurance option." He went as far as he could, I thought, to try to find that bipartisanship environment within which to pass the legislation and never got there.
PETER CANELLOS: We only have time for a couple more questions. I know there are only three people up here, so we'll try to get all three in.
QUESTION: Thank you. So we've touched briefly on a small aspect of the money issue, but I just want to bring up, in the time period since the last Great Senate -- roughly the last 30 years -- one trend has been mentioned, which is the increasing trend to the right. There's another trend that corresponds to that, which is increasing economic inequality, which also leads to unequal influence and power. So I'm just wondering if you see a connection between political polarization and economic inequality.
PETER CANELLOS: Thank you. Anyone want to take that?
IRA SHAPIRO: I do see some of that. I would say if you look around the world, you would see that globalization and technology change are causing inequality almost everywhere, growing inequality. But for that reason, public policy ought to lean against it and try to offset that and in our country it's not doing that.
Since about the late '70s, and I would say 1978 to be exact, we have had an increasing narrative that the problem is government, that there's too much regulation, that there's too much taxes. The Republican narrative, most of the time, has prevailed with very destructive consequences – the loss of a strong consumer movement, for one; weakening of labor unions to the point that they're shadows of themselves from what they used to be.
So I think public policy ought to be leaning against that trend and it hasn't been.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: I'll also say that this disparity of wealth, it mystifies me that those most harmed by it still support the programs that hurt them. The deep Bush/Cheney tax cuts that effected the very, very wealthy [applause] have made the average person's life so much more difficult. Yet, they're the ones with the "Nobama" stickers on their car. I shake my head when I go by – How's your life made better? The superwealthy, they're doing great, and hey, they're going to vote for the Republican agenda; they love those tax cuts. But how about the rest of us?
TOM DASCHLE: There's one other quick factor that I'll mention, and that is the impediments that a lot of state Republican legislators are now putting in place to keep people from coming to vote in the first place. It's reprehensible. We're seeing that now in about a dozen states, where they made it a lot harder to be able to go vote. And as you all know, this fall we're going to have a Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act itself. So that is also a disenfranchising and a growing factor in terms of participation in the voting process.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: And the answer, it should play out in the political agenda, this battle.
TOM DASCHLE: Absolutely.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: That's what elections are all about. There should be more talk about the disparity of wealth; that should be top of the agenda. And that's what we do when we run for office. So it's up to us, whoever's running for office, to bring it into the public's consciousness.
QUESTION: My question is also about the money and it's a two-part, quickly. Since so much of the money in campaigns is used for advertising and broadcast media is the most expensive, isn't it time in this country that we expect the media, for the privilege of flourishing and in fact profiting in this free press nation, to step up to the plate and do their part in the process, as a public service, and offer free air time for candidates running?
And the second question is, given that the Citizens United decision has focused even more energy and time on fundraising, to outdo one another in terms of the PACs, isn't it in the vested interest of elected officials to support an amendment to overturn that decision so that they don't spend every minute of their time raising money? [applause]
TOM DASCHLE: I'd say quickly the answer is yes to both questions. [laughter] But probably impossible at this point and in this environment.
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Also, there's a test when you're running for city council. There is a test, can you go out and raise the $1,500 that you need to print your palm card. There is a positive to have that discipline: Are you going to go out and raise some money. It's gotten way out of whack, but in some ways it's a good test to have. If it's all public money, it's easy. I'll just go get the public money and run for office. You just don't have that discipline. Also, the Supreme Court has ruled, Buckley v. Valeo, that the wealthy can spend their money indiscriminately on their own races. So then if you start restricting the ability to raise money, then again the superwealthy have a big advantage.
PETER CANELLOS: One last question.
QUESTION: You're all students of politics, and I'd appreciate it if you'd all comment on what you really think will actually happen if I pick up The Boston Globe or The New York Times on
Wednesday in early November and it says "Romney Wins, GOP Takes Senate."
PETER CANELLOS: I think some people will learn to love the filibuster, especially in this room, I think is the answer to that one. [laughter]
IRA SHAPIRO: I was thinking more of Canadian citizenship. [laughter/applause] Look, we survived Nixon. We survived Reagan. We survived Bush, albeit in decline. From my standpoint, we hope that that's not the result. If Romney were elected President – I'm choking on it – if Romney were elected President, I think he would find that the world he's dealing with and the challenges he's dealing with are far different than the things he's talking about as a candidate. [applause] So I'd like to think that that would be the case. But in the first instance, I think it's important that he be defeated. [applause]
LINCOLN CHAFEE: Don't forget, Ira's hero is a Republican, Senator Javits.
IRA SHAPIRO: One of my heroes. [laughter]
LINCOLN CHAFEE: You're not totally partisan. If you read his book.
IRA SHAPIRO: Howard Baker is a hero, too. And your father.
PETER CANELLOS: Any further thoughts, Senator Daschle?
TOM DASCHLE: One of the things I care the most about is healthcare, and he has pledged to repeal and totally strip the Affordable Care Act of all funding for implementation, which would be, I think, just a disaster. We're beginning to see how good the Affordable Care Act is in terms of the protections it offers, in terms of the opportunities for people to be covered for the first time. We're going to see more in terms of what we can do for cost containment and meaningful delivery reform and quality of care itself, all of that would be lost. But his pledge is to do it on the first day. That would be my greatest concern.
IRA SHAPIRO: One thing I would add is that – and I was thinking this when Senator Daschle said it before – the healthcare legislation was a classic sort of compromise that the Great Senate would have come up with. Everyone would have gotten together and been really pleased that something that was now 60 years in the making was finally being dealt with. And because our politics have gotten so degraded, nobody even gave it a chance that way. [applause]
PETER CANELLOS: That's a great note to conclude on. I want to thank everybody here who came, especially the Millennials in the audience who will make the next Great Senate in 2030. [applause] And certainly all of us in Boston are really pleased and honored to have Ira Shapiro, who's book really is indispensable, and who will be signing it right outside. So it's a great book and it's really, really worth reading.
And Governor Chafee, your time is so valuable, thank you so much for coming.
And Senator Daschle, it means a lot that you'd come up from Washington.
Thank you very much. [applause]