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Martin Gold: Counsel to the Senate Republican Leader

Martin Gold
Senate Historical Office

"...somehow it mattered to him to be able to say that all of this was done aloud."

Describing Senator Robert Byrd's dedication to the Senate and his mastery of its rules, Gold recalls the senator's long series of speeches on the history of the institution.

GOLD: So what do you learn from Robert Byrd? For one thing, I think the importance in the first place of a knowledge of rules and precedents. Without it, a senator is disarmed. With it, a senator is armed. So, do you want to speak with a microphone or do you want to speak without a microphone? Because the knowledge of the rules puts a microphone in front of your face and makes you be heard more loudly. Or you can speak without any benefit of assistance, in which case it’s harder to be heard. Just watching him pull the levers of the legislative process is a wonderful way of learning about that process, because from a technical standpoint, whether you agree with the end product or not, you know that the means to the end is likely to have been extremely well executed, with lots of knowledge, with lots of forethought, and with a process that you can replicate if you want to be right about how you operate.

I think that someone ought to write a very good biography of him one day. It won’t maybe be called Master of the Senate but it probably could be called Mastery of the Senate, because that’s really it. He once had a nascent campaign for president and was once thought about as a potential for the Supreme Court, but unlike a lot of people who have served here, who are either running for president from the time they get here, this is a Senate man, from the top of his pompadour to the bottom of his toes. Institutions need people like that, and frankly speaking, whenever he goes, this will be a much poorer place because of it.

I was actually on the floor the day that he started to do his history of the Senate. I heard the first speech. It was a quiet day and his grandchild was in the gallery with a school class. I had no idea what he was doing, but I just happened to be there and listened in. Then I realized it was the beginning of something. And it’s so indicative to me, by the way, of the regard he has for the institution if not for the staff that serves on the floor that he read aloud every word. He didn’t prepare the speech or have the speech prepared for him and then put it in the Record, but actually stood on the floor and spoke every word of it. If you read his volumes of Senate history, the fact that he spoke it or put it in the Record is inconsequential. It wouldn’t make any difference if he had put it in the Record, the same material would be there for anybody who wishes to learn about the Senate, but somehow it mattered to him to be able to say that all of this was done aloud. He did a lot of it aloud before there was ever television.


Senate Historical Office

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