, Newburyport, MA


October 15, 2012

The last, great Senate indeed

I am not in the habit of writing book reviews for this column; the only other one was Aug. 3, 2005, “Schools take heed,” a suggestion that students read “1776” by David McCullough as a lesson in the founding of our great democracy. What changed my mind for another “suggestion” is the continuing squabble in Washington between two warring factions: Democrats and Republicans.

I have found myself continually mystified as to why they can’t agree and move on to resolve issues. What comes to mind is the fact that no one seems to be in control. There was a time, not that long ago, when there was control. The author, Ira Shapiro, presents that picture in his new book, “The Last Great Senate,” in which a great cast of characters in the U.S. Senate are noted: Howard Baker, Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen, Fritz Hollings, Ed Brooke, Birch Bayh, Patrick Moynihan, George McGovern, Abe Ribicoff, Hubert Humphrey, Bill Proxmire, Lowell Weicker, Walter Mondale, Bill Bradley, Nancy Kassebaum, Scoop Jackson, John Chafee, Frank Church, John Glenn, Phil Hart, Dan Inouye, Robert Byrd, Ted Stevens, Jesse Helms, John Danforth, Jake Javitz, William Fulbright, Margaret Chase Smith.

The author makes excellent comparisons with the men and women who met then and today’s crop of also-rans when he states, “It was a different time. Issues were taken on their merits and faced, no matter how tough they were.” There was still a number of legislators in the Senate who had served their country in WWII, among them: Paul Douglas, Bob Dole, who lost the use of one arm in battle, Dan Inouye totally lost an arm and George McGovern, who completed 38 bombing missions over Europe, but never mentioned his service record whole running for re-election to the Senate or for the presidency on two occasions. What brought them together to get a job done? It was the TASK for which they were elected: to accomplish what they said they would do, not just idle rhetoric; so unlike today’s politicians.

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