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tv   QA Richard Baker Donald Ritchie and Ray Smock  CSPAN  August 6, 2018 1:04pm-2:07pm EDT

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researches on abortion. tuesday at 8:00 p.m., landmark cases provides a look at roe v. wade. savage hear from david discussing judge kavanagh's nomination and the abortion issue. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," a discussion on american history and the u.s. congress with congressional historians richard baker, donald ritchie, and raymond smock. this program was recorded at the robert c. byrd center for congressional history and education in shepherdstown, west virginia. brian: ray smock, if you had to have a dinner party for people in history, say four or five people, who would you have at the table?
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mr. smock: well, i would want ben franklin there because he is a good friend of mine. [applause] mr. smock: and i would think i would like to sit down with dinner with franklin roosevelt, and i would like to have at that same dinner ronald reagan. and then, to keep a little moderation in between, my old boss tip o'neill. i think that would be a pretty good crowd. brian: don ritchie? mr. ritchie: i would probably go back to find some of those senators i've been writing about for years. i would love to have henry clay at the dinner, and i would love to have huey long at the dinner. i think the conversation would be very sparkling. there are a lot of other orators. alvin berkeley of kentucky, a famous storyteller, and many others whom i never had the opportunity to meet but i have read about. brian: richard baker? dr. baker: i would like to have
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daniel webster, and i would like to have john quincy adams, not only because they are from my native massachusetts, but because they were people who really knew how the senate and the house of representatives worked in the second quarter of the 19th century. and the third person i would like to have is robert c. byrd. people often said about senator byrd that he would be as at home in the 20th and 21st century or in the 19th century, and probably the 18th century, too. he had the demeanor, the air, the gravitas of a senator. i would like to hear the three of them sort of mix it all up. he would not believe what he had to tell them, i'm sure. brian: for "q&a" tonight, we are at a place called the byrd center. and the emeritus director of this institution is mr. ray smock. he just retired. what does this place do? mr. smock: we study congress. we reach out to people because we believe that the congress and
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the constitution need to be understood in a public forum. so we do teacher training. we conduct programs like this for the public, and we do research. we published a two-volume study of congressional investigations going back to the very first one in 1792 and bringing it up to the time when the book was done to the most current one in 2007 with the hurricane katrina investigation, looking at all the investigations congress has done over history. we have senator byrd's archive here, and we conduct our own research, and we invite other scholars to come. one scholar in the audience is working on a autobiography of robert c. byrd, using our papers extensively. senator byrd and a lot of other senators and other members of congress have set up centers like this around the country and did so for the purpose -- congress does not provide money
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for its own members' papers. you have to find resources to do that. the official records of congress are kept at the national archives, sort of like presidential libraries are kept in various places, as part of the national archives, but these centers get at the papers of what the members did for their constituents, their own personal papers, and that is a vital part of the record that needed to be preserved. brian: we are in shepherdstown, west virginia, at shepherd university. and, don ritchie, all three of you have retired. i want to ask don ritchie, what does someone like you who spent 40 years as senate historian -- or dick baker was 40 years -- and you followed him but you guys were there together for years. what do you do in retirement? mr. ritchie: i tell people i only retired from the government. i did not retire from the history profession. in fact, one reason i wanted to retire when i did was i wanted time to do my own work, to do research. for years, i did my book writing
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at night and on the weekends because i was working for the government during the day. now i have the days to devote to that, and i am involved in writing a book right now. i have had more time -- brian: what is the book about? ritchie: i am writing a book about drew pearson. it is a book about a man who broke secrets because he published think that the government did want to get at. he got away with it. he was sued more than any other journalist. he won almost every one of his cases. richard baker, what are you doing in retirement? i'm trying to write a
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book between the relationship of adams andn quincy daniel webster. of daniely adams set webster, he is a man of a rotten heart. records, sominous there is a lot in mind. they were from the same geographic region. -- they were of the same political party. they went in vastly different directions. they become the guide through a significant time of american history, particularly for congress. mostink of who was the significant person to serve in the senate. john f.ple would say kennedy said that. daniel webster and the house of representatives, maybe john quincy adams.
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how they interact during their careers? brian: i want to ask all three of you what book you have been reading or what book you have been reading that you would recommend to someone else. a book in history. mr. smock: i have been too busy writing a book in history to read anybody else's right now. brian: i've got one of your books right here. mr. smock: let's not go there. my project is -- i am a historian, but i am also a diarist. i want to -- i kept a journal when i was in the house history office. it is a million words, and i kept that, but now i am doing an almost day-to-day account of my reactions to the current political situation, and i have a chance to relax and think about that now. so i am trying to figure out our
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current congress and why it is so dysfunctional. i'm trying to figure out our current president and why the presidency is so dysfunctional, so i've got plenty to keep me busy. brian: don ritchie? mr. ritchie: currently, i am reading "american revolutions" by alan taylor. it is a fine book a , reinterpretation of the american revolution as a series of civil war wars between loyalists and patriots, whites and slaves, slaves and slave owners. it is a fascinating account of things that's making me look at the american revolution very differently. i am the co-author of a high school history textbook, and the textbook covers everything from the very beginning of american history up to the most recent events. and you have to keep going back to reexamine the early chapters because actually, history keeps changing as historians do
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research and uncover new truths and find out things and ask different questions than were asked maybe a generation or two ago. taylor is a brilliant historian who's changing the way we think about the revolutionary era. brian: dr. baker? dr. baker: i am reading ron chernow's ulysses grant biography, and i'm reading it as an e-book because if i had to look at the physical book and realize how far i had to go, i might be discouraged. but once you get into the book, there's nothing discouraging at all. it is a model book for anyone who aspires to be a biographer 50 how he weaves the story together. it's true he has a subject that is extraordinarily well-documented. everybody remembers what ulysses grant said to them years later after the war. and they put those thoughts down in writing, so he was a master a master biographer. brian: all three of these
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gentlemen have been tremendous to c-span, giving us your time and knowledge and all that in the background, but the interesting thing is we have never had the three of you together at one point. all three of you are retired. you were senate historian from 1975 to -- dr. baker: 2009. toi followed him from 2009 2015. my best job was the 33 years dick and i worked together. i was his deputy. we were a team. brian: ray smock, you were house historian for what years? mr. smock: 1983 to 1995. dick and don started the senate historical office a couple years earlier, so these guys were my go-to people. they really helped me tremendously, even though we had this terrible problem that i worked for the house and they did not give a darn about the house, and they represented the senate, and they tolerated me when i came over to the senate side. i do not say that to be completely facetious.
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do you know how many people do not go from one side of that building to the other, one of your staff or one of your members? you might do it for the state of the union address because the senate has to come over to the larger chamber, but the fact is we were working on the bicentennial of u.s. congress and the constitution, and we had a lot of reason to be together a lot of the time, and both these gentlemen taught me a lot, and i think we made a pretty good team while we were there together, and they were very memorable years. brian: i have a quote here from dr. baker. we did an interview in 2013, and it is important for everybody to know the date. it was june 13 -- june 13, 2013. i'm going to read this quote, i took it right off the transcript. "the senate is a profoundly
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conservative, slow-moving, tradition-based institution." let me read it again. "the senate is a profoundly conservative, slow-moving, tradition-based institution." dick baker. "if the senate moves to change its rules for the majority culture --" "huge problem," you know. "it would not be the senate anymore." remember i said you said this on june 13, 2013. november 20 of the same year, headline in "the washington post," reid -- harry reid, majority leader at the time, "democrats trigger nuclear option." i want the three of you to discuss this and what impact it has had on the united states senate. dr. baker: well, i would qualify
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my statement by saying that we are talking about two kinds of filibusters on nominations and on legislation, which so far is holding. as the "new york times" journalist who wrote various variousg consent" and things said, the senate is the place where people come to bang their head against the wall -- he did not quite say it that way -- but to fight, bleed, and die over compromise, and those who are not willing to to compromise, you need to get 60 votes, let's say, or 67 back in those days. if you don't get the compromise, you don't get the legislation, and that has changed, at least in terms of nominations and in terms of legislation. that may be next. mr. ritchie: dick, ray, and i were there at a time when
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congress was undergoing a huge transformation. in 1975, when the senate historical office got started the two political parties were , internally divided. each had a conservative wing and a liberal wing. i tell students today that when i came to the senate in 1976, the most conservative senator was a democrat and one of the most liberal senators was a republican, james eastland of mississippi and jacob javits of new york. you cannot imagine that today. it does not exist because over this time, the parties have changed. not the congress, but the parties changed. they became internally cohesive. they became parliamentary parties just like you see in the , british parliament. the only trouble is the congress does not have rules for parliamentary government. our rules were designed for the days in which the parties were divided and everybody was trying to create coalitions and you were bringing together the liberals in both parties or the conservatives in both parties. we are not used to the situation
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we are in right now, and i think the two political parties and the leaders of those parties are trying to figure out how do you work with this system. it is not a republican position or a democratic position, the nuclear option. both parties have been in favor and both parties opposed it. brian: let me ask you to explain what the nuclear option is. mr. ritchie: the nuclear option was a way in which the senate decided instead of having a 60-vote margin to cut off debate to establish cloture, you could do it by simple majority of the senators, 51 senators. this was threatened by senator bill frist when he was the majority leader and opposed violently by senator harry reid when he was the minority leader. it was invoked by senator harry reid when he was majority leader and opposed vehemently by mitch mcconnell when he was the minority leader.
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it was then continued by its mcconnell and in fact expanded by him when he became majority leader. so it is not a democratic or republican position. it is a majority party position and a minority party position. and the majority leader has got to figure out how you get things done, and the senate became so polarized, especially over nominations, that nothing was happening, so eventually, they had to blow up the dam and let the water through. and that is what reid did and mcconnell has continued. brian: ray smock, is there any way to describe what impact this would have on the house? mr. smock: yeah. the house and senate are vastly different bodies, and i think we often overlook that. people think there is a congress, and they know there's two bodies, but the house has always worked by the numbers. the majority party rules the house and always has. there's been various ways the minority has tried to find ways to get around that, but the senate has to run by consensus. it's 100 members. they ought to be able to figure out how to make something happen
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to solve a problem for the country. whereas, the house, while it works by the numbers, it does not always mean that the majority wins. but in recent times, under the so-called hastert rule, which is not brand new, but it has been used more extensively than it ever has in recent congress history, where the only way you bring a bill to the floor is to have a majority of the majority party ready to vote for it. and so, therefore, you completely ignore the minority. the minority has no role in any kind of debate, no opportunity to amend the bill. if a bill comes to the floor without any rules for amendment, so, therefore, the minority party is completely obliterated and only a part of the minority , party, and then they fight within themselves. you have the caucuses, the freedom caucuses and other caucuses that fight over what
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that republican majority is going to be, so that is a vastly different way of doing legislation, and right now neither body is doing it very well. brian: one of the questions i hear people asking all the time -- "is this the most uncivil time in history?" mr. baker: it's got to be close. it's got to be close. [laughter] mr. baker: it has got to be close. if you were to pick another period, certainly the years leading to the civil war, when a house never came over and caned a senator because he disagreed with what he said. there were a lot of senators who kind of cheered on that house member, and, of course, that all led to the civil war. it's frightening to think of the comparisons. mr. ritchie: there is a broadway musical now about the shooting of alexander hamilton. he was shot by the sitting vice president of the united states. that's pretty dramatic. we've had terrible political times when passions have flared
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up. the system is designed, actually, supposedly, to calm those things down, and when you had somebody like robert byrd in the senate, that was his job, cooling down the tempers and getting senators to step up and do their jobs. it does happen, though, and we are in a very rough spot right now. brian: do you ever study whether or not -- obviously, you know this, there were guns on the floor of the house of representatives. mr. smock: oh, yeah. members carried weapons before the civil war and some even afterwards. of course officers and police , are armed. the sergeant at arms is armed. when jack russell was the sergeant at arms of the house of representatives, was a real gung ho guy, like central casting created him, i think he carried three guns on him, when in his shoe, but there were shootings, and people pulled pistols
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on one another on the floor of the house. brian: ever fist fights? >> fistfights and brawls. there was one brawl in 1858 before the civil war that had 80 members rolling around on the floor. and the only thing -- and the sergeant of arms could not break it up. the mace of the house, which is supposed to be a symbol of the courtroom, he was carrying around the mace, they were fighting, and finally, one of the members who had a wig, one of the members pulled his wig off during the fight, and someone yelled, "he scalped him!" and that was the levity to stop the fight. [laughter] people took fire tongs to each other. when they have fireplaces. brian: dick baker, that sounds like it's more uncivil than it
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is now. dr. baker: it sounds like it's more uncivil? brian: then, back in those days. dr. baker: how do you define a lack of civility? brian: i want you to define it. dr. baker: i would say there are a million definitions on it. the cuttingis remark, just the refusal to support another member's piece of legislation. now, with the staffs of individual numbers of congress very large, we hear the expression "silo," that the staffs kind of surrounds themselves, they have members in their own little silo so they only have to talk to their staff, and that's not too good in terms of members talking to each other in a straight-on way. the senate and house right before world war ii, were determined not to hire staff because that would mean that members would come to rely on
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the staffs and the staff might know more than the members and the members did not want to appropriate money to have these powerful staff. well, now there are a lot of staff, and some of the staff indeed, particularly senior staff, do play somewhat of a role as a substitute senator because senators' days are extremely busy. and they have to go back to the home state. so it's a lot of decentralization and a lot of confusion. brian: i want to ask a question of the three of you. same questions. you can put your hand up if you want. i don't care how you respond to this. how many of you on this stage are on twitter? [laughter] brian: how many on this stage on facebook? why? >> i'm on twitter, too, but i don't pay any attention to it. i get feeds, but i don't respond on twitter.
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brian: why not? mr. smock: i am perfectly happy with 600 or 700 friends on facebook, and i engage in political dialogue with a number of people and a variety of people. i find that very enjoyable. it can be nasty at times, but most of the time -- at least most of my friends are civil and they engage in serious debate. some of them are scholars from around the country. and plus a nice mix of local citizens here that i know from this area. and it's a nice way of communicating. brian: for our audience, this area is about 90 minutes from washington, d.c., in west virginia. why are you not on twitter or facebook, don ritchie? mr. ritchie: i have found it to be a distraction.
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i am trying to do my own work, but i have watched how politicians use any kind of media, and it was always a rule of thumb in the senate that the minority was much faster to adjust to the newest form of media than the majority. the majority was happy with what got them into the majority and stuck with it. the minority would adopt anything that would get them into the majority eventually. so when i first came to the senate, the republicans had been in the minority and they were the first to put satellite dishes on the roofs. democrats were appalled at it and did not think it was appropriate. by gosh, when democrats were in the minority, they were the first to go digital, so each has moved along in the process. and the media is very important because what they are doing these days is talking over the heads of the regular washington media, trying to talk directly to the constituents, and that, of course, has been politician'' dream from the very beginning.
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brian: are they getting it done? mr. ritchie: they are getting the word out, but they are not getting the legislation done. >> if i could just -- we have all seen this huge transformation -- of course, c-span has been part of it -- since the 1990's, and now it's completely into all the cyber media that we use. i remember when the house and senate got email. we could talk to one another in the house and senate by email. you would think that be so obvious. it took quite a while. and it was in 1994, and i was so happy to send dick baker and email in his senate office. and so the message i chose for my first email to the senate historian was the same message that samuel f.b. morris sent when he sent the first telegraph from the capitol to baltimore -- "what hath god wrought?"
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and we've been there ever since. what hath god wrought? dr. baker: i was honored to be interviewed by c-span on the first day of senate coverage 2, 1986, and it's very embarrassing to watch that interview now because i was asked to predict what would be the role of television in the senate in the years ahead, and i gave the sort of an anodyne -- it's going to be good, it's going to be helpful, and it has. it has opened the chamber. they said at the time it extends the gallery from coast to coast and around the world, so it has been good. but i was very innocent at that point, pontificating about what is going to happen televising the legislative proceedings. so i try to keep a little more quiet about those kinds of predictions, but i think it is great what c-span has done. brian: at what point in your careers did you have the best time, the most interesting time, the most interesting time?
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the time in the house -- who were 12 years in the house, 40 years in the senate? mr. smock: the bicentennial of congress. it was a wonderful opportunity for us to do a lot of very interesting things, a lot of the things come a lot of fun things. a documentary film on the congress done by ken burns, working with ken on that kind of a project, working with chief justice burger on the commission of the bicentennial, and the commission that was there, and senator byrd, of course, running the senate bicentennial committee, and i'm working for tip o'neill and jim wright and lindy boggs, the congresswoman who was the head of the house bicentennial. that is how i got to know senator byrd. i was on the house side. it was during the bicentennial as we planned events around the country and one of the big things that can out of that was
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the visitors center at the capitol, the national constitution center in philadelphia. so those were heady times. mr. ritchie: i remember those times because we had lots of projects the senate historical office had been trying to do for years and could not get funded, and we called them bicentennial projects, and we got the senate to ok it. [laughter] mr. ritchie: dick was very shrewd about this. we actually continued the bicentennial on for several years after. [laughter] mr. ritchie: i remember in 1991, we took something into senator george mitchell to sign it off, and he looked at this document and he said, "all right, but this is the very last bicentennial project that we are doing." [laughter] dr. baker: and he was wrong. brian: dick baker? dr. baker: i remember the phone call that i got in late 1980 from senate majority leader robert byrd. and he asked me if i would come
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down to his office. he wanted to talk about something. well, it was the first call i had had from him to go into his office and talk about something he expected me to know about, so shaking like a leaf, i went down there, and he wanted to know about the power of the senate through its majority leader to arrest senators who refused to come to the floor to vote on controversial matters. and so we looked into that and we helped him do some research, and he loved it. he gave a speech, and he called me again with other questions at the history of the senate leadership. well, that went on and on for quite a few years, and we got up to 95 speeches over that period of time, and members would clip out the congressional record. he was very active in putting these speeches together, but i will never forget the day he called me in about 1988 and said, i counted up the number of
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historical bicentennial speeches, and we have only 95. the 100th congress is coming up. we've got to have five more speeches. what can you recommend? i will never forget that. and we found him -- and the result, one of the major -- the senate's major contribution, for its bicentennial was the publication of these two volumes of the history of the senate, his lectures on the floor of the senate over eight or 10 years, and those are now all available on the internet. brian: i have in my hand something that will cause a mild earthquake in this room if we discuss it called "the trump tsunami." if it does not cause a problem in this room, it will with our audience. ray smock, you wrote this. and it came out -- this was diary information between october 19, 2015, and december 21, 2017.
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and if i just read the headlines, it would give people an idea. here's one called the "glorification of the donald." [laughter] brian: and i'm going to read a little bit of this because i think we need the flavor of it to get these three gentlemen here to discuss this. this was at the lincoln memorial, the inauguration. the trump family was there. you write, "then the finale began as the army band played a version of the battle hymn of the republic. donald trump and his entire family ascended the steps of the lincoln memorial and stood perfectly framed --"
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now, you are a historian. are historians supposed to be unbiased or not? why did you write this book? mr. smock: i don't think that that was particularly biased. [laughter] mr. smock: i think that was expressing some pretty solid american values. had he gone up there with a troop of boy scouts and girl scouts, had he taken veterans, had he taken gold star mothers and fathers up there with him, then it would have been an american scene, but he took his own family, and i didn't think it was appropriate. i mean, images, all the
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presidency, everything, image is everything, image is so much an important part of it. he was creating an image there one where he did not yet have the right to compare himself with lincoln. that is the lincoln memorial. when i think about all the historical things that involve the lincoln memorial, the civil rights march, marian anderson singing at the lincoln memorial, all the things that have gone on there, the glorification of the president on that particular occasion was not appropriate. that is why i wrote it. brian: i can go through the book and read some other headlines. "demagogues and ideologues cannot govern the united states," and that's on march 16, 2017. and may 9, 2017 -- "is trump acting like nixon during watergate?" let's see -- "george washington is spinning in his grave." [laughter] mr. smock: objective historical facts, brian. [laughter]
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brian: dick baker, would you ever write something like this? dr. baker: ray did it first, and he did it better, so i would refer to ray. mr. ritchie: it was always difficult when we work for the government that you have trouble writing about the people who are paying your salary. so it was always safe at first, as historians, to talk about the past rather than discuss the present, but we were called constantly by reporters who wanted information. when they were writing a story, on deadline, had to know, is this the first time this has happened, how often has this happened, is it right if i say this or that. invariably, they would get to a point, what do you think about this? i would say, it doesn't matter what i think about this. what matters is what is going on in the senate, the history being made there. now that i am out of the senate, i feel that i can speak my mind a little more than i was, but you had a responsibility. i, all and dick and
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three of us when we were in our positions, we spoke for an institution and respected the institution and anybody who got elected to get in that institution. fortunately, we didn't have to speak for any of the presidents of the united states during our period in office. it is a tricky business you have in terms of preserving your objectivity, and yet still having an opinion about things, because obviously we are students of government, and we certainly see when government is doing the right thing and when government is really screwing pretty badly. brian: we will ask our audience, if you want to ask questions of these historians, please use these microphones. i have a question about one vote. can any of you think of a time when one vote made a difference, and has anybody ever done a book on how often one vote makes a difference, whether it is in leadership votes, legislation votes? you can go on and on through the
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process. you were shaking your head. >> ray can probably tell the story better than i can. in 1940, when the house of representatives voted on draft legislation. it passed and got into place in plenty of time for world war ii to come along, a year or so later. so that was good prior planning and it was a tough vote. it passed by i think one vote. brian: wasn't jim wright elected by one vote? >> senator tom daschle was elected by one vote for leadership. brian: how many votes did robert byrd and ted kennedy -- >> one vote to become party whip in 1971. the most emotional vote i ever saw in the senate was a one-vote difference, and that was the balanced budget amendment that
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passed the house by 2/3 and had about 2/3 of the senate ready to go, and something they were working on, this was in 1996, i believe. and there was going to be a new amendment to the constitution which was going to say that the federal government had to maintain a balanced budget at all times except in case of war. senator mark hatfield, chairman of the appropriations committee, had sponsored and supported this, but he finally actually read the text of the amendment and he realized it would be a disaster. it would have been a straitjacket on the government. the government would have been restricted in times of emergency to act, just in regular business, and he felt he could not do this to his country to vote for this. and yet his vote was going to be the deciding vote. and he offered to resign from the senate, so that there were only 99 senators and they would not need that extra vote. and senator dole, the majority leader, said he wasn't going to hold him to that. but i sat in the gallery that day.
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it was extremely tense. the entire place was packed with people, and when he stood up to vote, you knew that was the deciding vote. and he effectively ended his political career by casting that vote, but he felt he was doing it for the good of his country. brian: do you have one? mr. smock: not a vote, but before we get to the audience questions, i just wanted to say, while all of us are assembled here, i think as critical as we can be of government, and -- i love the congress of the united states, and i appreciated it before i worked there. but when i went to work there, i fell in love with the place, and the people, republicans, democrats, the staff. it is such a human institution, and i met so many wonderful people.
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lindsey boggs, as i used to say, ray, you don't want to be nervous around members of congress. they are just real ordinary people, they are just elected to do an extraordinary, difficult job, but otherwise, she would comfort me when i had to deal with leadership and had some problems. what an experience. and upstairs for my office, the spiral staircase, was a republican from new york who went on to be head of the world bank. he said, ray, if you have any questions or concerns about the institution, i would be glad to help you. just come up to my office anytime. once in a while i would go up that little spiral staircase. he had his office decorated with all these indian relics from new york state, a congressman from new york. wonderful man. the republican leader, bob michael, when i was there, what a gentleman. world war ii veteran, hero. these are real people.
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and i wish they would start acting like it again, talking to one another. tip o'neill and ronald reagan fought like tooth and nail, but they would have drinks together. when reagan was shot, it was tip o'neill who was one of the first to go to the hospital and kneel at his bed and pray. brian: did this book feel good after you finished writing it? mr. smock: no, it did not, but i'm working on the sequel so -- brian: one last question for you, before we go to the audience. dr. john slane in the audience, who you will know well and spent a long time working at c-span, teaching at the university of maryland. he had a question earlier we were talking about, and that is learning history. what is the difference between the impact of television versus reading? television versus reading. in other words, if you had to look at it in today's society.
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mr. ritchie? mr. ritchie: i read the congressional record every day when i worked for the u.s. senate. i have not read it once since i left the senate. but i have looked at c-span. it is interesting. i spoke recently to a book agent, who was talking about the sales of books, and the sales of paper books are not going up. sales of e-books are actually going down. what is really going up right now is the sale of audiobooks. there is a younger generation out there who is getting their story through audio and video rather than reading. so tv is just approaching different audiences completely, it seems to me. and so are podcasts and all the rest. it has expanded the audience. dr. baker: the more, the merrier. particularly with younger people, it can engage them,
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seeing that these are issues that real people had, in real times, where people lost their lives or did not get to eat because of certain policies. what is that all about? where did that come from? i don't know a better source than a television video or a podcast to do that. brian: ray, what is a better way to learn? mr. smock: i believe reading is still the essential. we have not gotten away from that since gutenberg invented the movable type. the idea that today, so much of our media is brief, episodic, visual, a tweet, and human thought and human civilization moves in paragraphs, chapters, books, and multi-volumes. you really don't understand things below the surface unless
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you read in depth. brian: when is your book expected? >> mine? i hope to get it out next year, sometime. brian: dr. baker? dr. baker: about three years. i have been saying three years for quite a few years. brian: i suspect people can get "trump tsunami," but when is the second one coming out? mr. smock: it's going to be the end of this calendar year. it is writing itself as i go along. it's got 55 entries, and it will have 80, enough for a 200-page book on december 21, 2018. brian: questions for our guests? anybody else who has a question can go up to this microphone. please give us your name. >> my name is sandra. i am just wondering, are you writing with the senate the
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, house, are you writing as you go along? >> good question, fundamental question. when i started in 1975, the majority, mike mansfield said to , me, i do not know quite what government historians do, but go find out and do it. what we ended up doing, major emphasis was on making source materials available so that others could write. we aren't interested in the so-called court history, where the court writes about the king, but rather making the sources available. this was all in pre-internet days. no one knew where the papers of senators, let's say the senators who served during the new deal. where were all those papers? william lichtenberg, the distinguished historian, wanted to know, so we got to work on that and eventually produced a catalog of where all the papers are located, and that is now
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available on the internet. it's oral history interviews, talking to senators after they retire, or staff members who have been there for a long time or have had very significant positions, special insight, all of that. but probably not writing our view of the history of the place. >> if you go to the senate website,, a lot of things we did write and the interviews we did are online. there were lots of little things. we did not try to take the place of those really writing the history. >> there was the matter of keeping biographical data on 13,000 people who have served in the house and senate since 1789. so -- and we had that assignment. that used to be in a big, thick book, before the civil war, and
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then it got over 2000 pages. now it is all online, and you can go to it and get to it instantly. brian: where do you find it? mr. smock: the congressional directory, biographical directory of congress. just google that, find it. >> can you talk about your role in the two impeachments, the pending impeachment for richard nixon and the clinton impeachment? what did members of their staff say to you? >> we were established just after the nixon impeachment effort in 1974. we came along in 1975. but the aftermath, we need to know our history, we need to know where these records are kept, that played a major role in establishing the senate historical office. the clinton impeachment trial, we were involved in a very kind of quiet planning committee on
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the senate side, because the senate leadership did not want to get ahead of the house, it's up to the house to bring articles of impeachment. so if the house does that and it comes over to the senate, and they thought it would, what do we do? what about the tickets to the gallery? do we give out one ticket, and the person who gets that can come to every day of session, or do we give separate tickets each day? all those procedures, we basically went back and looked to 1868, to the impeachment trial of president andrew johnson. and one of the high points for me and that was the senate was out of session in december when the house managers marched over, the day they agreed to impeach president clinton. and they marched over to the office of the secretary of the senate and into the office and presented articles to the secretary of the senate. then what do we do?
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they kind of shifted their weight, everyone shook hands, and then left. during the actual impeachment vote, i was fortunate enough to be able to sit in the vice president's office just off the senate chamber with president clinton's legal staff, all his attorneys, while the vote was being taken. everyone had one of those big tally sheets, and they checked yea or nay, and they knew he would not be removed from office. brian: ray, were you there during the impeachment of bill clinton? mr. smock: i was not in the house anymore, but i did get to see, thanks to senator byrd, tickets to go to the trial. i still have my ticket. brian: any memories from that? mr. smock: yes. in fact in our two volumes of , the congressional investigation, i did the research on the whole whitewater investigation, and the clinton impeachment, so i did a great
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deal of research on that, and from taking the whole thing all the way back. so i followed it very closely, even though i was no longer working for the house at that time. brian: don ritchie? -- mr. ritchie: one connection going back to the nixon impeachment, i did a oral history with floyd riddick, the senate parliamentarian, who was there during the nixon situation. in the interview, he told me he planned for how the senate would hold a trial for richard nixon. one of the things they were going to do was bring a tv to the chamber because they said you can't have the impeachment of a president without the people being able to watch, so they had the rules ready to go for this occasion. then, of course, president nixon resigned. so when i did that oral history, i thought, this is
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counterfactual, it's an interview of something that happen in the past. interesting, but not that important. of course, in 1999 when the senate was getting ready to hold a trial for a president, everyone was going back and reading the interview about how they were going to modernize the 1868 impeachment rules to get ready for a 20th century impeachment. so you never know when a historical document is suddenly going to the reinterpreted and have new value. brian: your question, sir? >> i'm curious how interested the representatives and senators were in their own history, and if that was your primary constituency, the representatives and senators, or the american public? >> very good question. i thought it was both. we did work for the institution. we worked for the members. i did not get involved in anything that had to do with any kind of legislation, but if a member wanted to give a speech about a historical topic, i would help them with that. and, of course, all of our work for the bicentennial of the constitution and the congress was both for the members, who
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needed to understand their own institution, and also for the broad public. i think all of us here, and i know you are one of the most distinguished public historians around here, mark, and we are glad to have you here tonight. we see ourselves as public historians. we work for our institutions, but we are -- our real job is to get the word out to the public. if the public is not informed, as james madison said so well, if we don't have an informed public, our democracy is at risk. >> starting in 1976, when there was a very large class of new senators, we helped organize an orientation program for new senators. and we got to talk to them directly, and then that triggered a relationship. but in 1997, i was talking with senate democratic leader tom daschle about the history of democratic leaders in the senate.
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he said, could you come into the caucus lunch we have every tuesday, just give a five-minute history minute about something that members who are busy and don't have much time to read tomes of history, just the essence, maybe, of something related to the institutional development of the senate, historically speaking? so i did that for 12 years until i retired, and then don ritchie continued, and don's successor betty is doing it. the republicans, when i retired, mitch mcconnell said, we have been meaning to do this, too, so both the republicans and democrats, every tuesday the senate is in session, get to hear from a historian about something that the historian thinks they ought to know. that is great fun. mr. ritchie: the senators love history. they see they are part of history. they still sit at the desks in the senate chambers that daniel webster and henry clay sat at. they actually carved their names
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in the desk drawer along with the famous senators there before them. i found when they were traveling, they were always on the road, they were always flying somewhere, back and forth constantly. they spend a lot of time reading. so when they would come back from a recess, one or more senators would stop me at the democratic lunches and say, have you read this book, that book? they were very keen on, what is a good book on such and such? i found them to be very strong in a sense of history, and i hopefully trying to think about where their place will be. brian: this gentleman has a question, but the last question, name your favorite historian you would want somebody to read. think about it. think about it. and yes, sir? last question. >> senator byrd often spoke about the prerogatives of the senate and protecting it as an institution. his speeches about the line-item
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veto are a very good example of that. my question to you today is, who speaks for the senate? the one that comes to mind to me, the brief remarks by senator mccain prior to the vote on the affordable care act, but is there anyone else that speaks for the senate, and what do you think of the need for someone to speak for them? >> one of the big questions we got at the time that senator byrd left leadership, after he died, was, who is going to be the new robert byrd in the senate? i left the senate about the same time he passed away, so i am not sure i have first-hand experience as to who the new robert byrd is, but i think it will be quite a while before we see a senator, or public official, for that matter, who believed in reading, who believed in study. he would take two big briefcases home every night, and next day would come back with notes for his staff. there are people in this audience who can attest to that. the value of reading and
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learning is something every public official needs to follow that example. >> senator byrd was a stickler for the rules and for decorum. and there is a rule in the senate that you cannot use electronic devices. and whenever senator byrd would walk into the chamber, you would see senators putting away their phones. [laughter] today, if you take a look at c-span sometimes, when you are away from the speaker, you will notice people are under the table texting. they've snuck them back in. i don't know anyone who has taken the role senator byrd did of protecting the institution, but even beyond that, he was constantly concerned about protecting the congress against the president, the courts, what the role of the senate was. again, he had a huge role, that has not yet been filled. brian: ray smock, we need to close her down, so tell us who you would recommend as your favorite historian.
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mr. smock: when you are a historian, you read everybody, a hard question, but i will give you one answer because he's a good friend, someone who i admire and read his books, david mccullough. the reason i say, david gave me an understanding of history. the reason i say, david gave me an understanding of history. i said, david, how do you keep the drama in your volume? how do you make the story so compelling? because we arty know how it's going to turn out. we know that harry truman drops the bomb. he said, ray, harry didn't know it until he decided. [laughter] and the secret of telling a good story is to let it unfold, with people still in that state of tension. if you can capture that, it will take care of itself. he is my favorite. mr. ritchie: one of the books that made me become a historian
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was richard hofstadter's "american political tradition." he was a really provocative thinker and writer, and he suddenly, even though he has been deceased for almost half a century, he has suddenly become very relevant again, because his paranoid style in american history really explains a a lot of what has been going on in american politics today. anybody who wants a long-term sense of what our current politics are could very well learn from richard hofstadter. dr. baker: i would have to say robert caro, it really puts you into the senate chamber. you can feel the tension, the major debates, he's there. he's now working on what i guess
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will be the wrap-up volume of his multivolume biography of lyndon johnson. in terms of a granular approach that really takes on the tough issues, how did this really happen? it's easy to gloss over it, writing a 300 page book, but when you write a 700 page book covering three or four years, you really do get into the details, and i respect him greatly for that. brian: thank you. ray smock, former historian of the u.s. house of representative's. don ritchie, former senate historian, and dick baker, former senate historian. and to the byrd center for hosting. we appreciate it. have a good night. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at also available as c-span
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podcasts. this sunday on q&a, propublica's senior reporter ginger thompson discusses her story "the making of a massacre" about the attack on a small mexican town by the -- a major drug cartel. that was was horned turned into a multipart documentary. next sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. live, starting at 4 p.m. eastern here on c-span.
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nominated to the supreme court by president ronald reagan in 1987, justice antonin kennedy -- justice anthony kennedy is retiring. we will take a look at his impact on the nation. and former solicitor to the justice general. that's the legacy of supreme court justice tonight at 8 p.m. eastern. or on the free c-span radio app. the datat, a look at protection regulation. joining us on the from -- on the program, president and ceo of the software alliance.
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of thesident and ceo center for democracy and technology. >> every company is a tech company. i think this signals a change in our thinking. and that person has ongoing rights. that's a conversation every company needs to have. >> we want that to move forward in a positive way. we need to have the right rules underneath that. getting a local consensus on privacy as part of that.
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>> tonight, it is american history tv with a look at vietnam war. the the tet offensive to massacre. as i was david, they marched into sunlight. on c-span2 with book tv. and tim scott discussed their book unified, how an unlikely friendship gives us hope for a divided country. why moderates are less likely to run for congress. negotiatoru.s. trade and her book broken.
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book tv airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern on c-span2. senate confirmation hearings for brett kavanaugh to be a supreme court justice are expected in september, and they are likely wade,stion about roe v. the restriction that struck down restrictions on abortion. landmark cases presents an in-depth look at roe v. wade. we will also hear from david discussing just -- judge kavanagh's nomination.


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