Political Rules Of The Road

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 14.11.2010

Tonight our topic is Political Rules of the Road. Four distinguished former members of
Congress have joined us to talk about campaigning for office as well as dealing with constituents
and the media during their years in elective office. I believe the National Archives is
the appropriate venue for this program since we house the official records of the House
of Representatives and the Senate. These extraordinary collections document the history of Congress
from 1789 to the present, showing how representative government has operated and evolved throughout
our history. Tonight's panel will add personal accounts to that official record, telling
us their ground-level stories of how government and politics really work during our own tumultuous
time. I want to thank our partners for tonight's event the U.S. Association of Former Members
of Congress and The Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University
of Central Florida. Tonight's discussion will be moderated by Ken Rudin, political editor
of NPR, where he directs campaign coverage for the network. Ken has analyzed every congressional
race in the nation since 1984. From 1983 through 1991, Ken was at ABC News, where he served
as Deputy Political Director. He joined NPR in 1991 as its first political editor. He
spent three years as managing editor of the Hotline before returning to NPR in 1998. Ken.
Thank you, and it's an absolute honor to be here. I write a blog for NPR called Political
Junkie, and I guess maybe all of you are like this, but I am a dye-in-the-wool political
junkie. I live, eat, drink, sleep well, I drink a lot, but we'll deal with that later
about politics and what I'm fascinated about this panel is that the complaint we hear in
this country and it's widespread is that politics don't work. It doesn't work. I don't know
if it's a plural or not, but the point is, it's not working, and people feel it's not
working. People say that they wish people would be more bipartisan. They wished there
were more members who would reach across the aisle, but, of course, when we see in this
day and age when members of Congress do reach across the aisle, they get hammered by the
left or the right in primary battles. We saw that with Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas this
year. We see it with Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Every time he talks to a Democrat,
he gets censured by another Republican County Committee. It just gets ugly. I am honored
to be here with four former members of Congress, distinguished members of Congress, all of
whom believed in Congress and believed that the system worked. They all have different
experiences, and we'll talk about that during the panel discussion, but let me introduce
them. On your far left of course, he would not like that term but on your far left, David
Bonior. He's the Chairman of the American Right
I think he likes it.
He does like it. The American Rights at Work Board of Directors. He's been in that role
since the organization was founded in 2003. He was first elected to Congress from Michigan's
Macomb County, and he rose to the spot of Minority Whip. He served, I guess, under Dick
Gephardt, who was the majority leader of the body, and he left it in 2002 for an ill-advised
no, no for a run for governor, where he almost won but lost the Democratic primary but also
somebody who believes in this body, the body of Congress. Next to him is Bill Frenzel,
who is a guest scholar at Brookings Institution since 1991. He was first elected to Congress
and I do remember this in 1970 from Minnesota I guess the Twin Cities suburbs when Clark
McGregor, who ran against Hubert Humphrey for the Senate, left the House seat. Bill
Frenzel was elected to that seat. He was what was known as a moderate Republican back then
when there was something called moderate Republicans, but they do have still some of them, too.
He retired from Congress in 1991, never having seen the majority, which is sad because Bill
Frenzel had a tremendous reputation of just understanding Congress and how it works and
believed in the system. In 1993, he was appointed Special Advisor to President Clinton for NAFTA,
and in 2001, President Bush appointed him to the Social Security Commission and in 2002,
to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. As I said, Bill Frenzel
has been a guest scholar at Brookings Institution since 1991. The third gentleman there is Dan
Glickman. Dan Glickman served as President Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture. Before
that, he was elected to Congress in 1976 from Kansas back when you were allowed to elect
Democrats in Kansas they changed that law since then, a long time since and his will
be another fascinating case story because Dan Glickman was one of those Democrats who
was not supposed to lose in the Republican tidal wave in 1994, and he did, and nobody
saw it coming, and I suspect that Dan Glickman didn't see it coming, and it's just fascinating
to learn the lessons of people like that who just didn't see a political tidal wave coming,
and a lot of people think that could happen on November 2, and, as I said, after leaving
Congress, he became Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001. He's currently a Senior
Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and I think that's significant because all the
gentlemen here believed and believe in bipartisanship, talking across party lines, and again, that's
something that we don't have much of today. The fourth gentleman is Lou Frey. He was from
Central Florida. He was elected to Congress in 1968, and he served, I guess, until, I
guess, he ran for and lost the Gubernatorial Republican
Seems to be a bad idea.
Running for Governor. Right. He ran in the Gubernatorial primary. He told me he always
wants to be Gubernor, and I didn't know that meant, so it's kind of strange, but Lou Frey
is also the author of a book that we're talking about a lot today. It's called Political Rules
of the Road: Representatives, Senators, and Presidents Share Their Rules for Success in
Congress, Politics, and Life. The title takes up most of the book. There's not many pages
left, but it's really a fascinating compilation of former members of Congress, Senators, members
of the House and talked about what they learned during their years in Congress and probably
a lot of lessons that I wish that the current members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans,
learned. So those are the four gentlemen. We're are going to talk about what they've
learned, and I don't know if I'm going to do this from sitting down. I just heard a
voice. I can be seated, somebody said. Okay. So I'm going to sit down, and we're going
to talk about this. It's the Wizard of Oz talking to me.
Tell them about your buttons.
Oh, okay. Not that anybody cares, except I care, I collect campaign buttons. I have 70,000,
and these are Lou Frey, Bill Frenzel, Dan Glickman, and David Bonior. So if you forget
their names, you can just look at my jacket, and you can see who they are. So that's it.
That's really for us, too, in case we forget.
So let me first just start with Bill Frenzel here because Bill Frenzel was in Congress
for 20 years and never saw a majority, and yet, I'm just wondering what it's like to
be First of all, you know, in the current day, I mean, the Republicans had the House
from '94, lost it in 2006. Then the Democrats got it back in 2006, and they may lose it
in 2010, but members of Congress of both parties have seen the majority and have seen the minority,
and you've never seen the majority. Was that frustrating? What was that like?
Yeah. It just means I have a hard head, which was why I stayed around for a long time. Minority
role is no fun. It's like Sophie Tucker said I've been rich, and I've been poor. Rich is
better. But minority serves an important role, and in what I call the kinder and gentler
days of Congress, there was a fair amount of cooperation. Work was done cooperatively
in sub-committees between Republicans and Democrats. If I had a good idea, it was occasionally
recognized unless some Democrat would steal it first, but for 20 years, I found that experience
meaningful, and I am very proud of the service, proud to have served with the people that
I worked with and recommend the experience to anybody.
David Bonior, you were in the leadership. Of the four here, you rose the highest, I
guess, at Congress, being Majority Whip, and you're making a face, but, I mean, that was,
you know, a top leadership in the Congress. How do you control Congress, or what kind
of role did the Democrats have when they dominated Congress back then? And compare it to what
Nancy Pelosi and company are trying to do now.
Well, I was actually a sort of a transitional leader in the sense that when I came to the
Congress I served with Bill and with Lou and, of course, with Dan. Dan was in my class the
tenor of the Congress back in the mid 1970s was considerably different than what it evolved
into. You had Tip O'Neill and Bob Michel, and Tip O'Neill had wonderful abilities to
get along with people and develop relationships on both sides of the aisle, and there was
more camaraderie and more, I would say, respect and civility in the House at that time. That
changed over the period of time, and I was there during that change, during the pre-Gingrich
era, the Gingrich era, certainly, and then what followed afterwards. I left in 2002.
So I saw, basically, the whole stream of action. I think it's important for people to understand,
if you look at the history of U. S. Congress from its inception, it's had peaks and valleys
of cooperation, civility, if you want to use that term, and it had a lot of period there
where, especially during from Andrew Jackson's period right up until the progressive period
in about 1900, a lot of strikes. You know, people were beating each other with canes
and fistfights, and the language was difficult, and it was a rowdy place to be, and so it's
been episodic in how it's functioned over the course of our history, and that's not
to say that it functioned the best when we had civility and bipartisanship because sometimes
it functioned very well when you had the iron fist of a Joe Cannon or a Clark or one of
the Speakers in the progressive era that got things done. So I don't think you can correlate
those two ideas together, the civility and actually productivity. I think they don't
necessarily work. It's nice when they work together, but that doesn't always happen.
Lou Frey, you were elected 1968 and served, I guess, until '78. Is that when you ran for
MM-hmm. Yeah.
And, I mean, back then, you've never served the Majority like Bill Frenzel never served
in the Majority. What was it like? You were allowed to talk to Democrats back then, I
Even live with them.
And even live with them.
Yeah. It was a different kind of an era there. A number of us had been in the service, and
had run for office relatively young and been elected with young families and still-growing
families. We brought our clean laundry up on Monday and took our dirty laundry home
on Friday, and we spent time with each other because we were here. We had to go eat. We
shot baskets and maybe had a beer or two, but we got to know the people on a personal
basis. I mean, Dan was not somebody who was this person over here. He was someone who's
a friend who I respected, didn't agree with all the time.
Yeah. We Agreed a number of times and stuff, but it wasn't as much that I walked around
with a R on my back and Dan had a D on the back and, you know I couldn't sit on that
side of the aisle or do anything. It really wasn't that way at all. A great deal of the
legislation that Bill and I both, in different ways, tried to pass and a lot of it got through
without our names on it was done because of the personal relationships with the Democratic
Chairman of the Sub-Committee or the Full Committee. I had a guy that I worked with
named Lionel Bender from California, and we wrote the Communications Bill. It took four
years. My name was on the bill only because Lionel let it go on the bill, and I obviously
appreciated it, but whether it was on the bill or not, the whole idea was that we'd
make something happen and something that was good for the country, and whether you were
on the bill or not, you still moved it, and then that gave you a heck of a lot of satisfaction.
It would have given me a lot more satisfaction if I'd been the chairman as such, but it wasn't
something that you woke up in the morning and said, Oh, my goodness, you know. Got to
get down there again, and there's just Democrats, and things aren't going to happen. I really
can't remember ever being particularly frustrated in that sense. There was always a chance to
get something done, and I think that we were civil to each other. We did disagree, but
it was never putting a label on somebody or demonizing them because of the fact that they
didn't agree with us, and I think it's the way to legislate. I hope we can get back to
that, you know, and remember we didn't take an oath to the Democratic Party or the Republican
Party. We took it to the Constitution to preserve, defend and protect and I think if we maybe
think about it a little bit more that it may be easier to get things moving.
Dan Glickman, you never served under a Republican majority because
Thank God. No. Anyway
Would have been great. I'd have been good to you.
Because you were defeated in the Gingrich revolution in '94, but you started in '77.
You saw, basically, the increase of partisanship from the MSNBCs and the Fox News of the world
and the yelling on the cable TV. From the beginning of your tenure in Congress to the
end of it, what changed the most?
Money, the biggest factor. I ran for office in 1976 against an incumbent By the way, we
have another former member in the crowd, John Porter of Illinois, who's up there.
John Edward Porter.
And a classmate from Michigan.
Okay. So I ran in 1976 against an incumbent Republican congressman Garner E. Shriver.
I spent less than $100,000 on a primary and general race against an incumbent who spent
maybe $105,000. That race today, even in Kansas $2 million to $3 million.
You can't even spend that for state assembly races anymore.
So I think the fundamental thing we've seen and it's all inexorably linked together, the
role of media in all this and who gets paid, and it's part of campaigns but we've gradually
moved from what I call relatively citizen campaigns over a period of years to a professionalization
of the business, saturation of money in the system, both parties. You know, this is one
area where there's no partisanship. They're both after as much money they can get, and
And as soon as you're elected, correct?
Yeah. It's correct. It starts right away. Didn't really happen till about '80 or '82,
but then it began to happen very quickly. I saw the Democratic Party actually start
going after money that had been traditional Republican money. So they were going after,
in many cases, the same sources of money during all this time so that, you know, by the time
I left in '94, the amount of money it took you to run, the amount of time you spent raising
money, the amount of focus on the idea of money, had really changed the culture and
the texture of the political system, and I'd say that's the biggest difference.
You lose sight of why you're there. I mean, I've heard from many members who say they
just have to raise money because who knows what's down the road, and you almost lose
sight of why you're there to begin with.
Well, I think most members certainly don't come with that perspective, and I think most
members still carry the spark of trying to serve their district and serve their people
and their economic interests and serve the country, as well, but I do think what it does,
it takes enormous amount of time out of your system. If you have to raise $2 million to
$5 million an election cycle, you have to spend half your day raising money, which means
you're not watching the floor activities. You're not reading stuff. You're not doing
the work you're supposed to be doing. That's clearly one thing, and then the other thing
is that if you know that that kind of money can be thrown against you if you make a vote
or say something stupid, then it has a tendency to make you more defensive, and in some respects,
I think it's got a paralytic effect on the political system because knowing that money
will always be there in huge quantities and knowing that money is the mother's milk of
politics, so you have to have it to run for it, means the safest course is always to do
nothing because any time you take a risk, you know that the amount of money that can
be thrown at you will be even greater.
Now, you said you were completely surprised I guess many people were surprised by your
loss in '94, but you didn't lack for money. Is that correct?
That's right. I actually raised more money than my opponent, although he had other assets.
He had some outside independent money, but he had a much better campaign, higher intensity,
and I'm from Wichita, Kansas, and we had the Summer of Mercy where we had Dr. Tiller, who
was an abortion doctor in Wichita, so it grew. This Operation Rescue movement had big things,
and so he was able to get a lot of that attention, but I was mentioning before, Labor Day 1994,
two months before the election, polling showed me 32 points ahead of my opponent, and I lost
by 5 points two months later. I didn't see it coming. I saw at the very end. I think
the difference between then and today is, today everybody is forewarned about this volatile
Your picture is in every campaign office in the country. Don't let what happened to Dan
Glickman happen to you.
Right. It's a great thing to be known by.
Well, now, you had the reputation of being a moderate Republican working, of course,
both aisles, certainly not a Moral Majority type that were elected in 1980 with the Republican
class of 1980 and yet you were one of the biggest backers of Newt Gingrich for Republican
Whip, I guess it was, back under Bob Michel. Explain to me why somebody A lot of people
think of Newt Gingrich as, you know, being the leader the right wing revolution, but
you're kind of a moderate guy, and yet situation must have been that tough for Republicans.
Well, there were a couple of things going. First of all, I knew Newt quite well. He served
on a committee with me and worked well on it, and I liked him. He was a very engaging
fellow. That wasn't the most important thing, but the one thing, I liked him. The second
thing was that Republicans had been in the minority for 60 years-odd with two little
one-term breaks, and we were very tired of being in the minority, and we had been following
a certain line trying to be true to ourselves and be nice and easy and cooperative, and
then Newt came in preaching a different gospel. The only way we're going to get ahead is to
be much more aggressive and really go after these guys, and I was a little tired of being
in the minority. I felt rather suppressed at times, and so I said, You know, we shouldn't
keep doing the same thing if we're losing every year. So let's try something new, and
Newt gave us something new, and he led us to the Promised Land. By that time, I had
left the Congress, however, so I never arrived.
David Bonior, I mean, if you think of the anguish and the angst and the anger that we're
seeing now in Congress, you witnessed that. I mean, there was one thing for Newt Gingrich
to pluck the control of the Congress from the minority point of view, but once they
took over, there was a change in Newt Gingrich, change in the way Democrats and Republicans
talked to each other, and you were in the middle of that controversy taking on Speaker
Yes. I did take down Speaker Gingrich when we became the minority and he became the Speaker,
and I have a different view of him personally than Bill does. From a personal standpoint,
he's a very smart guy, and tacticianwise he was very clever, but the means that he used
to achieve his success were unethical and were so judged by Republicans and Democrats
on the Ethics Committee eventually. So having said that, you know, I think there had been
Republican Speakers that I have enormous amount of respect for. I didn't agree with Dennis
Hastert very often, but I think he was a person of honesty. His word was good, and he conducted
himself, I think, in an excellent manner at the time he was the Speaker of the House.
So that's my Newt Gingrich story.
But being in the middle of all that anger and yelling and screaming, I mean, David Bonior's
name was mentioned as much as Newt Gingrich. The Republicans hated David Bonior. The Democrats
hated Newt Gingrich. Now, hate is a strong word, but, I mean, you were in the middle
of that. What personal toll did that take on you?
It did take a personal toll because I had not played that kind of a role before in my
life, and my role had always been to try to work with people of different persuasions
as far as I could go in terms of reaching a resolution to an issue or a problem, but
the bottom line for me was a sense of honesty, and I didn't feel that it was there with him
to a large extent, and so I took on this role. I mean, the Democrats were pretty down and
out, having lost the House after having had it for, what, 40 years, Bill, something like
At least.
And so they were moping around and hanging their head, and you know, this was not a time,
I thought, not to hang your head. I mean, you got to get in there and fight because
you got this job and they're a lot of problems in the country that need to be addressed and
our point of view needed to be heard and we need to rehabilitate and rebuild ourselves.
So that was one of the pieces of doing it, making sure that people understood what Gingrich's
program was about versus what we believed and were not successful in communicating during
that two-year election period, and so I went out to try to make that case, and eventually,
it took, I think, 10 years or eight years to get the House back. The House was very
narrow in margin for those eight-year periods. I mean, it was very, very narrow with, you
know, between 6 and 12 votes, I think, and so they were very contentious and difficult
times, but in terms of productivity, of course, Clinton was the President from '96 he served
his eight years to 2002, and he had a Republican Congress, and not very much got done. We did
some incremental things, but nothing of major significance, I would say, outside the budget,
which we did. Bill would disagree. He would say that NAFTA was a big success for Clinton.
I'd cheer for your budget, too, though.
The budget was good, but I would disagree on the NAFTA piece, and the welfare reform
was transformational, but beyond that, I don't think there was really a lot that was accomplished,
but what happened during that period, I think, was the economy. The country was really humming
with an economy that was strong based upon the technological revolution that we were
in the midst of, and President Clinton rode it very well, and so did the Republican Congress
and Newt Gingrich until it all blew up eventually.
Was it a weariness that made you decide to leave the House in 2002?
I'm sorry I did not answer your first question because it was a good one. You know, it took
a toll on me. My job prior to that was getting up every day and counting votes and getting
the votes to pass things and get thing done, and when I became the Minority Whip, my job
was still to count the votes, and after about 11 years of that, people would see me in the
hall, and they'd run away. They didn't want to see me anymore There he was. He's going
to ask me what I'm going to do on this and that but my other job, as I defined it, because
I thought somebody in the leadership needed to do it, was to challenge the Speaker at
every opportunity.
Lou Frey, what's going on in the Republican Party now, it seems to be I mean, back then,
there were moderates, there were some liberals, and there were conservatives. Now there seem
to be conservatives and even more conservatives, and you know, talking about, I guess, the
rise of the Tea Party how do you see the difference between the Republican Party back in the Sixties
and Seventies when you served in the Congress and what it is right now, what it is today?
Well, the first thing you've got to understand, and Dan mentioned, is the money, and, of course,
the money, they're so much needed that the political parties become much more important
in the process of picking who the candidates are going to be. So what you find today is
that the Republican candidates are a little more to the right than they've been in the
past, and the Democrat part, the candidates are a little more to the left. There is something
called Blue Dog Democrats, which are Democrats who believed in fiscal sanity and that, and
when this election is over, there'll probably be very few of them left, which means the
middle aisle here isn't going to exist. There isn't much of it right now, but there really
isn't very much of it that exists. What does that mean about the parties themselves? Well,
what it means in the House is, it's going to be a little bit more difficult to get together
because, yeah, the Republicans probably will be somewhat to the right, but the Democrats
are also going to be somewhat to the left, and, you know, I guess when you've been through
this stuff a while and you've watched the ups and the downs, people are always predicting
that this is going to happen or the Tea Party is going to run everybody off or Perot is
going to do it or something, and very rarely do these things happen. We have an incredibly
stable system when you look it over, all the traumas we've been through over all the years,
and we sure do vary some, but, you know, I've always looked at our country as sort of like
a sailboat with a big keel. We go one way or the other, and we sort of fight our way
back towards somewhat in the middle, and I think it's going to be interesting. I think
that when it comes back, you know, it looks like the Democrats will keep the Senate. Looks
like the Republicans may win the House. Assuming that happens, you're really going to have
both parties sitting down and figuring out and saying, Hey, wait a minute, baby. American
people have told us they're just tired of what happened, and a lot of my friends aren't
here. A lot of good people aren't here, and if I don't do anything in the next couple
of years that makes some sense, you know, I would be retired, and I think that pressure
may force the Congress itself, and especially the House, to really come up with some things
that people can agree on and, Lord knows, are needed.
But back then, I mean, if you think of the Republican leadership, I mean, some of these
names may not be familiar to everybody, but there were people like John Rhodes, who was
a moderate conservative, and Bob Michel, who was a moderate conservative, and Leslie Arends,
who was the Whip, was kind of a moderate to left of center, and yet now, I mean, if you
think of '94, all the Republicans were on the same page. For the most part, nearly every
Republican supported to sign the Contract with America and all that, but now you have
the Tea Party people not only against the Socialist Barack Obama and the Socialist Democratic
Congress, but they also are against the Republican establishment, as we saw in Delaware with
Christine O'Donnell beating Mike Castle, we saw in Alaska with Joe Miller beating Lisa
Murkowski. I mean, what's point of
This is politics. You're going to have something like this that's going to happen. It happens
in two or three places, doesn't mean the world is coming down, and a lot of times with the
Tea Party candidates and what they're talking about is You know, my mom and dad were printers.
My dad went to sixth grade and had to go to work, and I grew up in a little town, and
because of that, my background, you know, I like small business. I think it's important
to help small businesspeople, you know, and I think it's not good to have a big debt,
and when you look at some of those issues, does that make me a Tea Partier? No. That
makes me someone who's been a Republican most of my life and believes in those kinds of
things. So, I think we can make You know, we'll see what happens. Maybe six months from
now, I'll be eating crow, and I usually do it with a little barbecue sauce, but I don't
think it's going to be that much of a problem.
Dan, I hate to keep mentioning that you're the only person on the panel to have lost
re-election, but I'm just doing it to tease you, but if you look back on your career in
the House, '77 to '95, is there a vote you wish you could have taken back? Is there something
you wish you could've done, in retrospect, differently?
Sure. Well, when I say, Wish I would have taken back, there are votes that cost me great
political damage. My vote for NAFTA cost me great political damage. Okay. So when I lost
in '94, I had voted for NAFTA. I had voted for the Clinton energy, the Clinton budget,
the Clinton health care plan, and the ban on assault rifles.
In Kansas.
In Kansas, and my district was largely a blue-collar, Blue Dog district, and I had just been instrumental
in passing a most important piece of legislation involving product liability protection for
small airplane manufacturers. Wichita is the home of Beech, Cessna, Learjet, and so this
bill, without being overly grandiose, helped to save the industry, and I fought the leadership
in my party on this. I filed a discharge petition, which no Democrat did, and anyway, so I had
thought I had saved the world, and so I remember walking door to door, and I'd go to people's
houses and, Oh, Glickman, great job on that airplane bill. Not voting for you. Why? Guns,
and then abortion, oh, big because we'd had these Operation Rescue We had 115,000 people
in Wichita the year before again protesting Dr. Killer, who, unfortunately, remember,
was shot in a church just a couple of years ago, or last year. So anyway, guns, abortion
were the big killers for me, and would I have changed my votes? No, because I voted the
way I wanted to vote on those things, and then, I remember when I voted for NAFTA and
I went to a machinist union hall, and I'm telling you, I felt like I was coming in as
an injured patient in a hospital with no doctors, nurses, or health care providers, you know,
and they looked at me like I was the biggest sell-out in the history of the world. So what
happened was, I lost my base. I did extremely well in high-income Republican neighborhoods.
They liked me a lot, okay, but not enough of them voted for me. So one of the lessons
I learned from that is that to be a successful politician, you cannot defy your base repeatedly.
You can do it a little bit, but not on every single vote that kind of mattered to them,
and, just one last thing, I remember going door to door, and I knocked on the door, and
one guy remembered, again, the airplane vote, and he said, Not voting for you, and I said,
Why? He said, Because of guns. You vote against guns. I said, I didn't vote against guns.
I voted against assault weapons ban. You don't need an assault weapon. He looked at me, and
he said, Mr. Glickman, he says, You're a man of means. You have a nice car. You go on vacations.
You have lots of things in life. You had a successful career. He knew my family. He said,
Your family is successful. He says, I don't have much. I'm a blue-collar worker. All I
have is my recreation of hunting and fishing, and what you did to me, with my judgment,
was to place your views over mine in terms of what I do in my life and he says, I'm not
a criminal. I'm just an average guy. So that was also what taught me about this cultural
disconnect that the Democratic Party had, in some cases, lost and would never really
grab it back totally since then.
It's the problem we're having right now, the Democratic Party. If I could just elaborate
on that for a second, I
You can go on all night if you want to.
I know I can, but basically, you know, we had this discussion a little earlier today,
and, you know, I look at Washington as a place where you've got pundits and lobbyists and
members of Congress and members of the Administration and the permanent government and media people,
and they're all talking to each other, and they're missing a lot of the big points that
are happening out in the country in terms of the folks that Dan just talked about. I
mean, people are struggling, and I don't think the sense of urgency of what the pain is like
out in the country is felt in this city virtually at all. That may be an overstatement, but,
boy, I don't sense it because, you know, we're not talking 10% unemployment. We're talking
almost 18%, 20% in this country today when you take into the numbers of part-time workers
and people who have been discouraged. You know, poverty is up to 15%, 50 million Americans
without any health insurance today. It's really, really bad out there, and I don't get the
sense of urgency in this Congress, to some extent even in the Administration, although
they've done some things, but their rhetoric and their messaging on this has not been as
urgent as it needs to be to address the hopes and dreams that they were led to believe would
happen for them, the working people in this country. So I think there is at that disconnect,
and we can, you know, talk about process all day, but really what's on the minds of people
in this country is the economic problems that they've had to deal with now for going on
30 years because that's the climb for the average working men and women in this country.
In terms of new income, this country has gone down over the last almost 30 years.
If that's the case, and I believe that is the case, why are we hearing most of the dissatisfaction,
if not all the dissatisfaction, from the right? I mean, the poor, granted, have never had
the kind of megaphone that the others have had, but why are we hearing it from so-called
Tea Party activists and not from blue-collar Macomb County?
Well, you are, and
But the newspapers don't, though. The media doesn't talk about it.
Well, you know, I think the media doesn't talk about it because the right has been very
successful, very canny, very strategic with the new media in organizing themselves and
making themselves a vehicle for change in this country, and it's a remarkable story
of what's happened just in the last 20 months.
Have there been instances A better question is, sometimes, I would assume, lawmakers have
to wrestle with what will help me get re-elected and what my conscience tells me. All of you,
could you just tell me, have there been instances where you really have to wrestle, Is this
going to help me in November, or I should do the right thing, whether it costs me or
not? You want to all take that?
Sure. Yeah.
Thank you. Okay. Thanks for coming. Yeah. All right.
You can't bleed to death in every vote, especially since we've increased all the voting and that.
I'm not an expert in wheat subsidies in Kansas and that, and so if who would come to that,
I'd go to somebody in the committee and them about it and talk to them about it and see
how they felt, pretty much, and if it wasn't any big problem down there in Florida, you
know, I might go along and vote with it because I'm also looking for some votes for the space
program, which is very difficult to get votes for, but there are other votes that I'm willing
to lose on. These are votes that, to me, are entirely different area of my head. Like in
Vietnam, for instance, I'd had a part-time roommate shot down in August 22 of '65. I
had strong feelings about it. Other people had other strong feelings, but I was wiling
to take that one, what I believed in that, and if people wanted to vote me out of office
on it, wouldn't be happy, but at least it was on something that was important to me.
So I think you've got to look at the votes, and you got to look at your district, your
state, your country. You got to look at your survival, and, you know, no one vote is exactly
the same, I don't think, but basically, I think what you have to be able to do when
you talk through all this stuff, you got to be able to look in the mirror in the morning
and shave. You know, if you're not embarrassed
A little earlier in the evening, you and I were talking about this matter, and you were
telling me the contributors to your book all tried to describe how they felt about whether
they were going to be independent or whether they were going to be beholding to the whimsy
of a party.
Edmund Burke in 1774 made a speech to the electors of Bristol, and the issue was, as
a member of the Parliament, what should you do? Should you talk to your district and poll
it and see where everybody is and that and vote that way, or should you use your conscience
and your intelligence and look at it and if you happen to think it was the right thing,
despite what your people in the district thought, you should go that way, and we never told
people what the rules were, what we wanted to get on. We collected 700 and some representing
2,000 years of congressional experience, by the way, and this was the one rule that everybody
I think we had 22 or 28 answers on this one and everybody felt that you ought to use your
intelligence, and not just be a Western Union machine.
I've always thought that Edmund Burke was the patron saint of parliamentarians. He said
that a representative owes his constituents not obeisance to their whims, but he owes
them his best judgment, and sometimes there may have been members who didn't give them
their best judgment, but almost all of them would give lip service to that ideal.
But go back about the votes and between the conscience and the re-elections, though.
Well, Edmund Burke is a great man, but he didn't have a Twitter account, Facebook, and
the world is a lot different in terms of the information flow. I'll just say a couple of
things. I mean, the first rule of politics is, don't do anything that will hurt your
constituents in the district. So, I mean, that's what you're sent there for, is to fight
for those interests, and that's the way it was intended to be, but then beyond that,
you hope that you move, in the scheme of things, towards thinking about the country as a whole
and the world as a whole. It's not always easy to do because there are a lot of pressures
on you in that regard, but I think there are a couple of problems here that happened in
recent years. One is, there used to be some truths and some facts, and now, in the general
milieu of politics, there's just a lot more opinion, and a lot of that opinion is presented
as fact, and some of it is just by a bunch of jerks who have no concept of what the facts
really are.
And rumor. I mean, I see on the air On TV networks, we talk about rumors and whether
it's true or not. I've never in my life have seen that before.
And you go from a blog to a front-page story in a major newspaper, and so then the public
sees all this stuff, and the public is pretty smart. I don't belittle the public, but their
knowledge base is based upon on what they read and what they see and what they hear.
You no longer have kind of central newspapers that would be able to give people kind of
a collection of information. We used to have three nightly news shows, and I'm not saying
we're going to go back to the old days. I'm just saying it's a lot harder to get facts
so that when you vote on issues, the pressures are just much different than they used to
be, and, yeah, we used to get sometimes I remember a day we would get like 65,000 preprinted
postcards on an issue, but they get tens of thousands of e-mails a week, maybe a 100,000
e-mails a week, and it's a lot more difficult to try to figure out what the right thing
to do is in that environment. I'm convinced most members of Congress really try to do
their best in that context, but if you know that if you're going to vote a certain way,
it's going to result in an avalanche against you, it's harder to be courageous.
David, you were elected from a Democratic district, but I think-
It was a swing district.
Excuse me?
It was a swing district.
A swing district, but also, I think Macomb County was known as the Democrats for Reagan.
The Reagan Democrats, it became, and yet, you were an environmentalist, in support of
union, you know, of labor laws, and considered liberal. Did you have to walk on, you know,
egg shells every time you voted?
No, because I really adhere to the Burkean ideal that Bill talked about just a second
ago. I mean, the job is too important and it's too difficult not to give it what you
think is your best judgment and your best effort, and I just was not into No. Did I
always do that? No. There are instances where I went against what I thought was my best
judgment. I'll give you an example. I came from the Detroit area automobiles, right?
I mean, the auto companies used to absolutely drive me crazy because they couldn't see in
front of them in terms of where the future was, where we needed to be going in terms
of energy, safety, you know, mileage standards, but I ended up going along with them because,
you know, that was my district, was basically all auto, and I fought inside to try to change
it, but in the end, I didn't cast very many votes against them. So if I had to do it again,
what I wish, I wish could have maybe changed some of those votes on those issues because
I think they led us down the wrong track.
You're talking about if you could do it again. Either if you were younger or if these are
people who are prospective candidates out on the audience, would you suggest they run
for Congress?
You bet.
You would?
Oh, it's a fabulous
It's a privilege. The best job in the world.
It's an honor. It's a privilege. It's the experience you have, the people you meet,
the issues you discuss. When you're a member of Congress, you wear at least a dozen different
hats. You're a social worker. You know, you got, well, literally 3,000 to 4,000 cases
coming into your office every year of people who need help on Social Security, on veterans
benefits, on, you know, all kinds of different issues. So you're a social worker. You're
an educator. You go to schools, and you teach. You're a legislator. You're a political leader.
You know, I could go through a whole list of things that you are, and it's an absolutely
enormous privilege and opportunity to serve in the Congress of United States.
Do you agree that everybody who runs should have campaign buttons? Do you agree with that?
Big ones, green ones.
You just have 70,000, and you're worth about $54 million. There's an interesting phenomenon
that I want to know what you think about that I saw this year. Two case studies here, two
Senate races, one in Alaska. Lisa Murkowski basically spent her campaign touting her record,
touting everything she's done, ignoring her opponent completely, perhaps underestimating
her opponent but ignoring him, talking about what she did, and she got voted out by the
voters. John McCain in Arizona, a lot of conservatives never trusted him, still don't trust him,
don't like him. What he did, rather than talk about his decades in the Senate, he just went
after his opponent, talking about, Well, we know he was this and that and this, and really
ran a negative campaign but won handedly. Weigh the differences between running for
re-election, touting your record, and just, you know, going after your opponent?
Well, I guess I'd like to suggest that McCain did more than that. He altered some of the
positions that he had taken during his entire political lifespan and sort of joined the
revolution, and I think that was mainly responsible for his re-election. I think every candidate
is supposed to know his or her own district and know how to manage it during an election.
There are times when it's better to tell people all the wonderful things you have done. If
you haven't done enough wonderful things, then you bob and weave and quote Jefferson,
I guess. In my day, we did not attacked the opponent. In my first campaign, my campaign
manager said we had enough money to tell them you were running. We didn't have enough money
to tell them you were a good guy. I luckily won, anyway. Nowadays, they would disdain
both of those forms of advertising, and all advertising attacks the opponent. When I was
running, the attack ads were not effective because the people did not like them. Today
they are used only because they are effective, and so candidates have to figure out what
to do to get elected. Sadly, a lot of them choose those, simply concentrating on the
opponent and trying to blacken his or her reputation, but for me, that's taken a lot
of the fun out of politics.
Well, the truth is, people say they don't like the negative ads, but, as you say, they're
very, very influential, and, you know, it would be nice of some way of rating ads and
the amount of positive ads and the amount of negative ads and then they make that something
so the public can see and in some way judge, but I just said to these folks before, Groucho
Marx had this famous line. He said, The most important quality in politics is sincerity,
and when you can fake that, you got it made, and I still believe, in addition to positive/negative
stuff, that people are pretty smart out there, and they can pick a phony in a moment, and
most of these people who lost, like, I'm told I don't know this but Lisa Murkowsky wasn't
the most popular person, wasn't the most personable person in terms of her relationship with the
voters, and I think beyond everything else, if you can establish authenticity and genuineness
and a commitment and a passion for certain things and also then play the political game
the way you have to do it, then you're going to be way ahead of the person who's not well-liked.
I don't care how many negative ads they run against their opponents.
But Mike Castle, for example, in Delaware was beloved in Delaware, of course, by the
general electorate, not the Republican caucus, but, I mean, he won overwhelmingly for decades
Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Congressman
Maybe that was his problem.
Well, people, they tire of politicians, too. He'd been there a very long time. They tired
of me. I'd been there a long time, and so, you know, there's a boredom factor that kicks
in in this world, as well. Plus, you know, when you run for office I've seen the statistics
for a while, everybody coast through very quickly. Then they will have a series of very
tough races. They may not happen for 30 or 40 years. They may happen in 18 years, as
they happened to me, and everybody is getting hit by this, and then they're tested, and
a lot of these popular politicians are never tested. They never have a tough race. Mike
Castle never had a tough race.
They never prepared for it.
So we didn't know what he was like in a campaign.
I will comment on your comment that people can spot a phony in a minute. I think that's
probably right, but in a primary where only 5% to 15% of the people in the party are voting,
maybe people don't care if they spot a phony or not. I think when you have those very limited
elections or nominating conventions, sort of all the normal rules are off.
In Florida in our mid-term elections for the nominees, 5.1% of the people, effectively,
voted. 5.1% of the people nominated our Senator or Governor. I think there's another thing
we're talking about when you're talking about candidates and running. I think there's another
basic problem that we face as a country, and that is our lack of civic engagement and civic
understanding. I'll talk about my state. We are 46 from the top in terms of civic understanding.
40% of the adults in Florida can't name the three branches of government. 42% can't explain
separation of powers. 73% of fourth graders in a multiple-choice test can't pick out the
Constitution as our leading legal document, and Senator Graham and I have been working
for four years, and of all things, we're going to now teach Civics in Florida starting in
first grade, but we've got years and years and years to go to make up what has happened,
and while all these things were talking about are all interesting and they're all fine,
but if you have a country where we don't even understand what we've been given and what
the rules are, you know, it's enough to worry you, and just very specifically on campaigns,
after you've been in this a while, you can tell. You don't have to look at the polls.
You can just tell what's going on. Like, did they pull your money? That's a Democrat. Do
you not debate? While I was up here working hard, I would send my wife to the debates
because I was way ahead. They couldn't beat me, and she'd say, Well, Lou would love to
be here, but you elected him to do his job in Washington, and that's what he's doing,
and I can't answer any questions, but I hope you can vote for my husband. Well, you know,
and then I had the little girls, you know, and they'd go knocking doors, and they said,
I can't vote for my daddy, but he is running. Will you vote for him? They're cute little
kids. So, I mean, yeah, every campaign is different. You use different things, depending
on where you are, whether you're wining or losing, and the one thing that's totally different
and we were really at this thing, I think for all of us is the social media. You know,
you can blow your nose wrong, and in less than an hour, it will be on every web site
and so forth, and you really got to be very, very, very careful these days about what you
do and what you say. It's a total different way that people get information today.
Well, you talked about 5% turnout in the Florida primary. I've been traveling a lot last couple
of weeks. I've been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Houston, Tallahassee,
New York. Everywhere I go, I turn on the TV, and all they are negative ads, and you wonder
with such a barrage of negative ads, why do you just want to get out of bed and vote?
I mean, what's the point if you're just being hammered, It's ugly, ugly, ugly, as opposed
to anything positive about politics?
You know, Dan was suggesting about negative ads working, and they do in many areas, but
there are a lot of areas were they don't work anymore, and I ran a presidential campaign
in '08 in Iowa, and none of the Democratic candidates, it never crossed their minds to
run a negative ad in Iowa. It wasn't going to work. It wasn't going to work because it's
just the way The people are very sophisticated and knowledgeable, and, by the way, if I could
put it in a plug for Iowa, I don't think there's a better place, actually, to start a presidential
race anywhere than in Iowa.
But, of course, you're a guest. When the presidential candidate came to Iowa, they were guests in
Iowa, whereas in your own state, you feel like you can just trash the other opponent,
your opponent, because that's part
Yeah. It depends. You know, it depends on the place and the area, and, you know, it
doesn't work as well as it used to, and ads don't work as well as they used to, I don't
think, anymore. I think people are tired of them. I think they're weary of them. I think
they're perceived to be sucker's lists that receive these things, and I think a much more
effective way is through the new media and through underground organizing, and I think
you're going to see more and more of that. You know, you can't do without the air campaign,
clearly, but I think its influence is overrated.
Can I ask all of you, what was the best thing you accomplished in your years in Congress,
and what's the thing you most regret or the worst thing you did?
We're going to start this way?
When I came in the Congress, I started something called the Vietnam Veterans in Congress, and
there were about 12 of us then, and I was Vietnam-era veteran, and I put together this
caucus, and we started to do things for the veterans who came back. We did the Agent Orange
legislation. We did the Vietnam Veterans Memorial set-aside. We did the outreach counseling
centers that we put all over the country. We did educational opportunities that were disappearing for veterans.
So I was very proud of that, and then in the Eighties, I led the caucus efforts against
the war in Central America and was involved in the peace process over there and against
the Contra war, particularly against the killings in Salvador and Guatemala.
Biggest regret?
I think I mentioned that earlier. Although I had a good environmental record when I was
in the Congress, I wish I had been stronger with regard to the question of auto safety
and emissions standards, yes.
Well, I enjoyed working in the tax field. I did a little election law early in my career,
particularly in 1972 and 1974. I probably had the best luck in trying to expand U.S.
trade over my entire career, and if I have a regret, it is that my stern lectures about
the fiscal inebriation were not heeded by my colleagues, and so, obviously, they weren't
good enough lectures.
Well, I'll tie into that because my biggest regret is, I voted for the Reagan tax bill
and against the Reagan budget cuts. So I basically helped to create the very large deficits because
I voted against cutting any spending and voted for more tax cuts at the same time, and those
turned out to be relevantly popular votes, but I have thought about them, and I still
have a little bit of a knot in my stomach because I helped create the deficits that
we had, and, thank goodness, we cured them in the Nineties, and now they're back again.
You're off the hook.
Yeah, off the hook. You know, success is A lot of things I remember are little things,
like early on, I got home glucose monitors eligible for Medicare reimbursements. So people
with diabetes, that was a pretty good thing. It wasn't grandiose and cosmic, but it was
something that helped people actually out there. I mentioned this product liability
bill for small airplanes which, some people say, saved the small-airplane industry in
America, and then I was the author of the bill, House author, creating the U.S. Institute
of Peace. This building is being built right by the State Department, which is this institution
where we're the only country in the world that's going to have a peace building right
in the heart of its capital that's basically focused on conflict resolution techniques.
I have one of your glucose monitors. Thank you.
And it's working.
I wasn't the only one, but you have mine that I did.
And I've been flying some of your small planes, and they're real Thank you, Mr. Glickman.
One of the biggest disappointments was the inability to convince the Congress and the
White House about the energy issues. We had come to a point where after the Yom Kippur
War and that where we had no oil, and we got very serious about alternate energies like
liquefaction of coal, gasification of coal, ocean thermal energy, hydrogen cells, on and
on, electric cars, and at the same time that was happening, the Cape was going from the
Apollo program, with about 25,000 people or more at the Cape, to about 10,000 with the
shuttle, and I tried to convince the President that we needed another Manhattan project and
we could take all these bright people and all these engineers, because the mental gold
mine we had literally over there was just something exception, use it on energy, and
now I look today and see we've got 73% of our oil being imported, and obviously we open
up ourself to some problems diplomatically and that with that, and, you know, it is frustrating
because I really believed in it. Other hand, I think one of the things that I enjoyed the
most was working with Congressman Deerlin of California and rewriting the Communications
Act and setting up the means to divest AT&T and while Dan and I didn't invent internet
or anything like that, we did open it up to the point where cell phones and all these
other things resulted from the break-up AT&T, and that took four years' worth of work and
Lord knows how may hearings that only he and sat in because nobody else really cared about
it or wanted to go, but it was nice to see something like that move.
I would take our audience questions, but before we do, what I would love to hear, just quickly,
all of you, what was in your mind when you realized you wanted to run for Congress, what
did you hope to accomplish, and what really drove you?
I was a political accident, totally. I was 32 years old, never ran for office, didn't
have any money, was in a Democrat district, and when I said I wanted to run for Congress,
my mother laughed. I mean, I don't know. I just decided I want to run for Congress, and
there was really no rhyme or reason to it.
And was it the war? Taxes?
No. I wanted to be in the Congress. I saw politics from a little bit close, and I thought
I could, frankly, do a better job than any of these people in Florida that were in Congress,
and I figured, Why not? You know, nothing wrong with the minor leagues, but I wanted
to play in the major league, and that was the Congress.
I'd say, quite frankly, it was pure ambition that drove me. I was always interested in
politics. I had worked for Republicans as well as Democrats. I hung up signs for a fellow
named Jim Pearson you may have remembered him a senator from Kansas, and then I was
involved with Democratic things. I ran for the school board. I was always interested
in it, and, quite frankly, my life was geared towards a political career, so it wasn't ideologically
I was serving in the Minnesota legislature, as David served in his legislature. I enjoyed
the work. My congressman decided that he wanted to do something else, and so, like Lou, I
thought I would try to get in a higher league, and it was a great decision, and my family
and I have enjoyed it immensely.
Pretty much the same story. I was a social worker, and then I got elected to the legislature
and the congressman that represented my district ran for the senate there was an opening and
I was, you know, very much passionate about social and economic justice issues and the
war. The war drove me, the Vietnam War, and that whole experience was the main driver
in me getting involved in political life and making sure, or trying to make sure, that
that kind of experience didn't happen again for any other Americans.
Anyway with that, I'd love to take questions. Is there a microphone? Where are the microphones?
On the side there, on both sides of the aisle by the staircases. So step up and
And you notice, there's nothing in the middle. Is this symbolic of the Are you trying to
tell us something?
The cameras are in the middle.
Oh, okay.
That's where you always see the dead armadillos, right, in the center of the road there. Over
Hello. I was interested in what your life was like back in the district. Did you have
any kind of private life, or, like, every time you went out just to go to church, to
go to the store, did you have people approaching you, either to berate you or ask you favors
or What was it like?
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
I was telling some folks a little earlier today that, you know, you have to come at
it from this perspective. Like, Dan and I had very difficult districts, and we would
win, oftentimes, with very low margins. Small margins, I should say. So, you know, you get
up the day after the election, and you got 52% of the vote, and your opponent got 48%
of the vote. So you go down to the store to get some milk or bread the next day, and you
pass maybe 50 people in the store or on the way there and on the way back, and you say
to yourself, You know, about every other person I passed wanted to throw me out of work yesterday.
So, I mean, that's the kind of perspective you have. When I came to the Congress and
Dan we're in the same year, '76 back then, most people brought their families to Washington.
So about 2/3, I would say, of the House, you know, you brought your family here, and so
at least you would see your wife and your children in the morning, at night when you
put them to bed, and then I'd stay here every other weekend so we'd have the weekend here
and go back to my district every other weekend. If they were in the district, the problem
was, you'd go back to the district, and you wouldn't see them because that's when you'd
have to be working, you know, especially if you're a new member of Congress. So you wouldn't
see them because you were in Washington during the week, and then you go back to the district
and your staff would schedule you, tough districts like we had, you know, six, seven events a
day, you know, on Saturday and Sunday, you know, maybe not that much at all the time,
but that was pretty typical. So you'd never see your family. So back in the district,
the longer you're there, obviously, the more people that would know you, and they'd see
you, and they'd say hello, and you say hello to them, you know, but, you know, you try
to do it in an unobsequious way.
My wife disliked politics. We had five young kids, couldn't live up here. As Dave was saying,
you go back to the district, the minute you get off the plane, you're working. So you
usually get Sunday off, or a part of Sunday, so you really don't get to see the kids much,
and it wasn't really much fun. You know, here you are up here, you may be in Air Force One
traveling around or doing a bunch of things, and she's home raising five kids, which is
a job, certainly, in itself, and so when I decided it didn't work out and got out, I
think that I was probably as unhappy as she was happy with it, but I guess we've managed
to survive these years, but politics was not something she liked, and not only that. You
didn't go out to eat because if you go out to eat or something, somebody will come up
to you and say, you know, Oh, Lou. Hi. I'm with my family for dinner. Well, that's good.
Let them go on and eat, or they'd say, you know, Well, I'm not going interrupt you, but
but that's a minor price to pay, really, for the opportunity to be in the U.S. Congress.
Most of us like people, or we wouldn't be in this business, and, therefore, if you were
at a place, in a job where you wanted to be with people and see people, I mean, there's
no greater job in the world. I mean, the world is your family, and every time you're home,
that's the way it was, basically.
I had a nicer district than David or Dan there. They were very tolerant of me. They didn't
ask for a lot of things, and I went home about 40 times a year, which meant nearly every
weekend, and I think you need to have a connection with your district, and it was a small-type
suburban district, and so I knew a lot of the people and it was fine, and in those days,
there was still in my State of Minnesota some respect for members of Congress, and so I
was not abused. People wanted to buttonhole me. They did not want anything from me. They
merely wanted me to listen to some wonderful advice that they had that would make the world
better, and that was great, but congressmen, as I keep saying, labor in some anonymity,
and I remember, I was eating in some greasy spoon one Saturday night, and I passed a table.
Some chap said, Say, hey, I know you. Aren't you the guy that does the weather on the 10:00
And you said, Yes. Vote for me.
I said, Yes, and I was wrong then, too.
We talked briefly about how the impact of money has put a lot of politics outside of
the reach of the average man. We also talked about how social media itself tends to make
politics into a much dirtier game because of rumor, et cetera. Do you think that social
media can ever be used to bring that power back, say, to the average man and possibly
even to make politics into a more honest campaigning where you would have a lot more positive effect,
as opposed to just attacking your opponent?
The answer is yes, and it has, and there's no question. President Obama used social media
and the various new forms of communication to his advantage for organizing and bringing
people together, and I think it was an extremely effective way, and the other thing is, the
new media is very democratizing. It allows people to really rule this country from the
ground up rather than from the top down. It also has some insidious sides to it because
it allows untruth to be spread much faster, and so, therefore, the new social media needs
the same kind of vetting procedures that the national media does, but on balance, I view
this is a very positive thing and really the first major change in politics for a long
time that allows average people to input the system.
And it may be the basis. I've never thought we'd have a third party, you know, because
of someone from the top, Perot or somebody. This is the first time I've been bouncing
around in my brain the fact that maybe with all this social media and the ability of people
to get together from all over quickly, you may have the basis for a third or a fourth
party in this country.
Thank you.
Before we go to this question, I just want to remind people let me steal this here that
Congressman Frey's book, Political Rules of the Road, if anybody wants to purchase it,
I guess, in the Archives bookstore, they can buy it outside, and I will sign them. I will
sign them off, you know? They will sign it.
I want you to know that none of the money goes to the author or anybody else. The money
goes to charity to teach kids on that, and we've done pretty well with it. It is a good
It's a fascinating book. It's great stuff.
Jerry Ford wrote me four and half pages of his rules before he died and really pretty
historic in some of his positions in that, looking at them today.
Really very interesting.
Yes, sir?
Been hearing a radio commercial lately for local congressional candidate running for
re-election. The first half of the commercial essentially says, The deficit's a terrible
problem, and I've got a solution for it. The second part of the commercial is how he's
been doing all of these wonderful things for his district, essentially, by bringing in
Federal money to the district, and it seems like a bit of a contradiction there, and I'm
wondering if you think the public, as voters, will see the contradiction, or will they think
this is a good message and re-elect him?
Well, you know, everybody hates Congress except their own congressman. We'll see if that happens
on Tuesday, on November 2, but
I'm just reminded that there was two quotes. Another Groucho Marx quote was where he once
said, These are my principles, and if you don't like them, I got others, you know, but
the classic case is Everett Dirksen, the former conservative Senator from Illinois who fought
against everything that spent money, and one day, his colleague Paul Douglas from Illinois,
a liberal senator, saw that Everett had put in money for the Central Illinois Water Project,
and he goes up to Dirksen, the story goes, and he says, Everett, I thought you were conservative.
I thought you're a man of principle, and so Dirksen says, I am a man of principle, but
my first principle is flexibility, you know? So, I mean, look. You go to Congress to try
to help the country as a whole, but you also fight for your district, as well, and the
hope is that the process can work to temper out excessive amounts of money that, you know,
whether that's earmarked or pork barrel or that kind of thing, but any kind of representative
democracy, you're going to have a little bit of hypocrisy when it comes to spending on
your local folks because you're the only congressman sent there to fight for your local folks,
those local folks. Everybody else is fighting for Michigan or Florida or Minnesota, you
know? So the question is, does this kind of system as a whole temper all that stuff? It
hasn't been very successful so far.
I think if a member of Congress or candidate can convince people that he or she is going
to cut the deficit and bring home all the bacon at the same time, then those voters
deserve that candidate.
Yes, sir?
In the years you guys were in Congress, specifically since the mid-seventies, the cost of a seat
in Congress has gone from under $60,000 to about $1.4 million, and increasingly, it's
now going to be possible for corporate money to get into the act, and that of necessity
involves foreign money, simply because foreigners can own a stake in corporations. Do you think
it's likely that the United States Congress, because its elections are so influenced by
money, will adopt policies that put them at odds with their potential allies because their
elections involve less money or are less dependent upon money? Do you see the possibility that
money is going to change that the increases in money are going to change the way American
politics works to the point that our members of Congress become more dependent upon money
and less dependent upon their constituents?
Yeah. I think the biggest threat to our system is money, and I think that we tried in the
Congress some years ago to limit both the amount of money you could raise and the time
you could campaign, and the U.S. Supreme Court I think in Valeo versus U.S. said what we
did was unconstitutional, that both the money itself and the time is the function of free
speech and tied our hands in terms of doing it. I think what happens with 527s, the way
the money comes in and where it comes from is an absolute disgrace. I would support any
legislation that may make a difference in it. I don't know with what the Supreme Court
has done where you can go or what you can do. We were talking, and you suggested, Dan,
that maybe it shouldn't come from it can't come from the Congress itself but maybe people
in this country, different interest groups and that will begin to saying that, Look.
We're not going to just give money to these people anymore. We're going to try and do
something. Something has to get done.
Why would they do that? Why would
Well, maybe because they're worried about the country and maybe they're worried with
that with all the spending that's going on that how are we going any control over what
we're spending in these campaigns, Ken.
You know, I don't know. I'm kind of a nutcase about this, but I have to tell you, it's and
I took a lot of money and I was also a lobbyist and I gave a lot of money. So I want to start
it by saying that I am certainly not pure, but here you have an average member of Congress.
What's the salary now, 170,000 or so? In public money, that people take from the taxpayers,
and yet the average member of Congress is taking $1.4 million in private money, and
I think to myself is there a disconnect here? I mean, they're elected by the public as a
whole, and they get a public salary, and the law doesn't allow them to take gifts from
individuals. That's prohibited, but they can take money to fund their campaigns by people
who were prohibited from giving them gifts, and I'm thinking, does this make sense? Is
this and the problem wasn't so severe when weren't awash in money, and I'm not naive.
I know that money will always be part of the system, but it just creates an environment
for saturation of political corruption that I wish we could find a way to get out of.
It is extremely unhealthy, and it hurts our country in the world, and it paralyzes us
in many cases from dealing with problems like climate change and healthcare. I mean, it's
no secret why we can't seem to get solutions to problems. All the people who were giving
money either don't want solutions or they're not necessarily terribly interested in a solution
that affects the common good. So I'm sorry to rant on this but, you know?
You know, to be specific to your question, and I think Dan and Lou did that, but I want
to get to a specific example where I think this could happen, your concern, and that's
with China. Most corporations, multinational large corporations, do not want to aggravate
China in any way at all. Because, you know, they're looking at a 1.2 billion-people market,
and so they just won't stand up to the Chinese because they don't want to suffer the repercussions
for doing that, and I worry that those corporate multinational corporations not all of them
but some of them because they aren't required now as a result of this new Supreme Court
ruling to disclose what they give, will have an undue influence, and that will affect our
policies vis-a-vis China and, as a result of that, some of the domestic policies here
in this country.
This will be the last question here. Thank you.
I have two questions that are linked together. All of you had careers, long careers in Congress.
Well, I haven't. I mean, not yet.
Not you, but you got the legs.
I think he has more buttons.
That's right.
My first question is when you took the job did you see yourself having a long career
in Congress and did you desire that? And the second question is what's are your feelings
or thoughts on term limits and how they could benefit or detract from political process?
You want me to start it? I was so shocked. I was there, I didn't have much thoughts beyond
that. I had no idea of staying or doing anything. I was, you know, really surprised and really
happy, but that wasn't even it didn't enter my mind at all, and the second one was?
Term limits.
Term limits. I supported it when it came out first. It was probably one of the dumbest
ideas I've had. I've had some bad ones. I should have thought of that before. We have
term limits in the State of Florida that's totally destroyed the state legislature up
there. Our Florida Legislature is run by staff because they're always there and by the lobbyists
because they're always there. We have an eight-year limit on in our State House. You begin running
for the speaker before your first year, you know, and so the members really don't have
much clout or effect up there. I think it's a bad idea. We're going to have term limits
in a few weeks, a pretty broad term limits, I think, and we've had them in the past. I
mean, this is not the first time the system has flushed one way or the other. So I have
confidence that if people like you, they'll vote for you. If they don't, you know, that
time they made a mistake. They'll come home.
When I was a freshman congressman, I supported a 12-year constitutional limit on House terms,
but when I ran for my 13th year, I said what was now needed is judgment, but quite frankly,
competitive elections, competitive districting, and the new media will be an antidote to,
I think, long-term folks who just never leave. So I don't they're needed any longer.
When I came to Congress, I thought you probably needed five or six terms before you'd figure
out what was going on and be much good in the business of legislation. I enjoyed the
work. I should have got out after 18. Full disclosure, I was for term limits. I had an
18-year term limit. Bill stayed 20, overstayed my leave. With respect to term limits, I have
always supported term limits. I think the most wild-eyed of the term limits advocates
ran away with the movement and screwed those limits down to six or eight years in a number
of the states and just ruined them. You cannot, I believe, run a parliament on a six or eight-year
cycle at all. I still believe term limits are wonderful. I think members of Congress,
the longer they stay, the larger their heads get. Maybe that was just myself, and you get
a little distant from your electorate no matter how often you go back and try to connect up,
and Dan and David in the beginning of this discussion were talking about keeping connected
and that is really, really difficult. Now with respect to term limits, is it needed
today? As you know, the Democrats ran the House with the exception of two terms for
64 years. The Republicans took over and what, had eight or 10 years? Democrats took it back,
and they've had four years. I think we're on kind of a short cycle now. We're getting
into a kind of a Westminster Parliamentary phase where we may not need term limits. The
electorate may take care of us, and it doesn't hurt if we have a few old hands around, but
certainly in the seventies and eighties, when we had people under the dome of the Capitol,
the janitors didn't know whether to dust them or paint them. You had to hold a mirror up
to their face to see if they were alive. That was a bad thing. I think we're going to get
over that in these new short-cycle exterminating elections. So maybe we don't need term limits
Well, I've done a 180 on the term limits. I was vehemently against them, and I, on reflection
over the years, I've changed my mind, and I think I'm not I think the criticism is legitimately
that they're too short in most of the legislatures, six and eight years, but I think 12 years
is enough time, two terms in the Senate, six terms in the House. You're not going to get
that happen because you got to change the Constitution, and it's probably not going
to happen, but as a general idea, I think, it makes sense. It refreshes people, it gives
other people a chance to serve. I think, for instance, in the House of Representatives,
I think the Republicans had a great idea in limiting the Committee Chairman to six years.
Yeah, yeah.
And I think the Democrats would be wise to have looked at that. I know they've talked
about it, but they didn't do it. So I don't have the same feelings that I had against
term limits when I was there. In terms of, did I think I would be in Congress for a long
time, let me just tell you a really quick story. I'll try to make it quick because I
know it's late. When I got to Congress, my modus operandi, like, I think Bill mentioned
this early, was just to watch. I mean, I was in awe that I was even there. I mean, what
am I doing here with all of these people, you know? How did I ever get here? And then
after six months, you say to yourself, how did they ever get here? So you sit there and
you kind of watch this thing going on, and someone told me the best place to do it is
at the Thursday whip meetings. So I used to go out to John Brademas from Indiana who was
the Whip of the House at that time. I used to go to his meeting. I wasn't a part of the
organization, but I just wanted to see what people were saying, how it worked, and you
go to these meetings, there's maybe 30, 40 people and they're eating doughnuts and coffee
in the morning, getting ready for the meeting, standing around talking with each other, talking
about different things, and I used to come in and sit in the front row, and Tip O'Neill
used to sit right in front of me. The leadership had four chairs, and then I'd sit right across
from Tip, and we were reading the newspaper, and, you know, we found out what we were both
doing eventually. He'd ask me who I liked in the Boston College-Rutgers game, and I'd
ask him who he liked in the Iowa-Wisconsin game, and we liked to play the games, you
know. We liked to bet on football basically is what I'm telling you, and so we got to
develop a relationship that way, and so I asked him to come out to my district to campaign
for me, and he said, sure. I'd be happy to, David. So I told my father this, and he was
all excited, and said, you know, Tip's a big guy. Who are we going to ask to pick him up
at the airport? And my dad said, why don't you asked Stan Schultz to pick him up? Stan
Shultz is our undertaker. He's the guy who buries everybody in the family. So I call
Stan up. He's got the big limo.
A lot of room in the back, too, right?
Yeah, and I didn't know that he was going to do what you've guessed he did, but I said,
Stan, can you meet us at the airport and we'll ride back with you, the four of us, You and
Tip in the front, my dad and myself in the back? He said, sure. So he comes, and of course,
he brings the hearse, right? He brings the hearse. So Tip gets off the plane, he sees
the hearse, and he thought it was great. He loved it. So he gets in the front seat, and
he's sitting in the front seat, Stan's driving. I'm in the back with my father, and my dad
loves sports, and he loves the ponies, and Tip loved the ponies and loved politics, and
they both loved politics. So they're talking back and forth politics, sports, politics,
sports, and then, at one point, they're talking about the ponies, and Tip turns to my dad,
and he says, who's that great horse that won at the Kentucky Derby, the Canadian horse?
And my dad didn't know the answer, but me, being my father's son, of course, raised with
this stuff, I said, Mister Speaker, it was Northern Dancer. And he turned around, and
he looked at me. He just gave me that look, and I knew that was it, and I ended up getting
put on the Rules Committee, which the leadership made a vacancy about two months later.
And that was the start of my career in the leadership. It was just knowing a Canadian
Northern Dancer.
All politics is local, right?
All politics is local. So I'm very happy that I can make a career out of this.
And now they have a person named Eric Cantor, so it's perfect for the horses.
That's right.
That's a very funny joke. Listen. Thank you everybody for coming, and I want to especially
thank these four gentlemen, who embody what Congress should be about and hopefully what
it will be about in the future, but again, thank you for your questions, and thank you
for coming.