Introductory Remarks by Senator Trent Lott
Ladies and gentlemen, if you would take your seats, I believe we are prepared to begin. Let me welcome you all, once again, to this historic Chamber, the Old Senate Chamber. We thank you for joining us. This is the seventh presentation of the Leader's Lecture Series. We are hoping to have three more in this series before we put it in book form.
I have certainly enjoyed the presentations of all of our presenters, beginning with Mike Mansfield, who spoke first, and, of course, several of the people who are here today: Senator Bob Byrd from West Virginia and Senator Howard Baker. Senator Bob Dole was here earlier. It has been a fantastic experience. We thank you for being here with us today.
Two hundred and thirteen years ago this week, on September 17, 1787, the Framers of the Constitution decided to create the U.S. Senate. So this is a historic occasion. We can only hope that we have lived up, to a small degree, to the expectations of that assembly those many years ago.
By the same token, it is worth noting that 186 years ago this month, the Senate met in a downtown hotel, the Capitol having been burned out by some heavily armed British tourists. So this is truly a historic year, a historic time.
We are all very honored to serve in the Senate. It has been a great pleasure for us to hear from former majority leaders, minority leaders, and Vice Presidents. We are going to have the opportunity to do so again tonight.
Before I officially introduce him, let me say to Marilyn Quayle that we are delighted to have Marilyn back in the Senate family. As Senator and President pro tempore of the Senate Quayle said earlier, "Once a Senator, always a Senator. You don't always realize how much you have enjoyed it and love it until you have been away from it for a while."
Marilyn, we thank you for being with us today, too.
This has always been a totally bipartisan program, so I would like to call on my good friend, the Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, to make some remarks before we turn the program over to Senator Dan Quayle.
Introduction by Senator Tom Daschle
Let me join our majority leader in welcoming all of you to what is surely the most extraordinary lecture series in the city. Thank you all for coming. I particularly want to thank Senator Lott, whose idea this series is.
It is fitting that we gather in this historic room on these evenings because our speakers truly have earned their place in history. As Senator Lott noted, over the last two and one-half years we have heard candid recollections and sage advice from six remarkable leaders: Mike Mansfield, Robert C. Byrd, Howard Baker, former President George Bush, Robert Dole, and George Mitchell. This evening we are pleased to welcome our seventh distinguished speaker, former Vice President Dan Quayle.
As the majority leader noted, we are doubly pleased that Marilyn and Mary Corinne Quayle could be here as well.
Will Rogers joked famously that the Vice President has the easiest job in the world. All he has to do is wake up every morning and ask: "How is the President?"
I'm sure that's not the way our distinguished guest thought of his job. While some Vice Presidents in our history may have been content with such a small role, Dan Quayle was not among them. As Vice President, Dan Quayle not only joined the national debate, he helped lead that debate on a wide range of issues, from a proper balance between economic growth and the environment to the role of TV in shaping Americans' attitudes about morality and family. Today, nearly eight years after leaving the White House, he continues to add his voice to the national debate on a host of important issues.
While his years in the White House are the years that Americans are most familiar with, many of us in this room had the privilege of serving with Vice President Quayle during his Senate years, and I am happy to say I am one of them. When I think about Senator Dan Quayle, one of the things that I recall most clearly is his decency and the genuine friendliness with which he treated members of both parties. Another thing I recall was his willingness to reach across the aisle to achieve practical solutions, as he did in the early 1980s when he and Senator Ted Kennedy joined forces to improve America's job training programs.
I may be wrong about this, Mr. Vice President, but I often thought your years in the Senate were among the happiest, at least so far, in your career. We are certainly happy to be able to say to you this evening: We are glad you are here. Welcome home.
Introduction by Senator Trent Lott
You have already heard us refer to our guest tonight as Senator, Vice President, but to this body we still think his highest achievement in life is President of the Senate. So we will probably refer to him most often that way.
Some people looking in tonight might be really surprised that we find ourselves here. This is an election year. The entire House, one-third of the Senate, and the Presidency are up for election. I guess there are those who would expect that these would be times with a lot of partisanship and politics and contention between the parties and among Senators. But as a matter of fact, I think it is especially appropriate that we, tonight, Republicans and Democrats of the Senate, sitting on either side of the center aisle, are thinking about the history of the institution in which we serve and of the future.
One of the reasons I really felt a desire to have this Leader's Lecture Series was to record some of the recent history of the men and women who actually lived, but also to learn from the wisdom of their experience and work, to benefit from it in the Senate, to make the Senate a better place, a more civil place in which to work and to live, since we spend an awful lot of time here. So I think it is appropriate that we have this special guest here at this time of the year.
Most of you know a great deal about Dan Quayle. I have known him, now, for I guess about 25 years. I had occasion to get to know him in the House of Representatives, where he served for four years, two terms. I remember him quite well. I remember how young he looked. As a matter of fact, he still looks very young. He did a great job in the House. He threw himself into that role. But then he was elected to the Senate, where he served for eight years, and he was very much involved in the Senate. He was a member of the Armed Services Committee, an area of concern about which he felt passionately.
He was involved in the activities of the Senate. Even over in the other body, in the House, where I served for a time, we heard the talk about Senator Dan Quayle and the speeches from him about the importance of our national security, but also of a family-friendly Senate. Some of us may agree or disagree with what that actually means, but he was one of those people who refused to always go out at night. In fact, he chose to go home and be with his children at night and not be involved in a lot of dinners. Obviously, it paid dividends because all of his children now are grown. They have been a blessing to Dan and to Marilyn. But he was a Senator, as I understood it, who was involved in the activities of the Senate, not just the legislation.
As Senator Daschle just pointed out, I have the impression he was always involved in bipartisan efforts and in fairness, and he also emphasized very important national security issues. He went on to be Vice President and served in that role as Vice President and President of the Senate for four years. He said earlier that eight years ago he involuntarily left that position. But he has continued to be involved and serve his country in a magnificent way.
One thing I noted, interestingly, is that he is participating as the seventh speaker. Yet, even now, even after 16 years as a Congressman, a Senator, and Vice President, he is decades younger than the other participants in this program. So, Dan, I think maybe you should take heart. We always quote Will Rogers, and some others, Senator, but we quite often quote Henry Clay in these programs. In your case, we might quote Henry Clay, when he said he would rather be right than President. As I recall, he tried four or five times.
So, Dan, you have always been a man who stood for principle and you fought for what you believed in, sometimes when it was not easy for you, sometimes obviously when your colleagues didn't agree with you. But I was looking back on your record and reviewed some of your own quotes. You said:
With all of my being I tried to stand firm, without wavering, for what I believe.
That kind of commitment can't be planned by pollsters or contrived by consultants. It has to come from within. It is, I think, what makes a good Senator great. It is also the thing that makes you feel, at the end of your day, politically, at peace with yourself.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome this personal friend of so many of us, this outstanding young man who has served his State of Indiana and his country so well. Join me in welcoming our former colleague and a former President of the Senate, Dan Quayle of Indiana.
Address by Vice President Dan Quayle
Thank you very much, Senator Lott and Senator Daschle.
I appreciate Senator Lott's reference to my youth because I can assure you that none of my children thinks of me as being young.
I appreciate the opportunity to be back home. Marilyn and I were talking this morning about returning to the Old Senate Chamber. She reminded me that, right after the 1980 election, the family photo for our Christmas card was taken right here. So it is a special day for me to be back in the Senate, with so many of my old colleagues, and with my wife and daughter.
Trent and I go back a number of years. He may not remember this, but in 1978 I was a strong supporter of his when he wanted to chair the House Republican Research Committee. It was a much sought after job that later vaulted him to Whip and now to Majority Leader in the Senate. It was such a prestigious position that, after he left it, they abolished it! But, Trent, I was with you from the very beginning and I still am.
Senator Daschle, thank you for your kind words. And on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for the bipartisan work that you do with the Majority Leader on a day-to-day basis. It's not easy. But there are times when the Leaders have to come together and say the Senate must move on.
Much has changed, as Trent said, since I made an involuntary exit in January, 1993. Marilyn and I returned to Indiana for three years. In the last four years, we have been living in Arizona. Our children are grown. Our eldest son, Tucker, is now married; our second son is in law school; and our daughter, a recent graduate, is working here in Washington.
When I come back to the nation's capital, I am always struck by how many people still call me "Senator," rather than "Vice President." I thought that was because they knew me way back when. But this week, one of my former staffers set me straight. He said, "No, they just prefer the higher title."
You all believe that, and so do I. But it is great to be back and have this opportunity to reflect upon my years in the Senate, how the Senate prepares one for the Vice Presidency, and to offer some observations from the Executive Branch as well.
Arrival in the Senate
When I first arrived at the Senate, there were a couple of Senators who gave me some early advice. Senator Hatfield, within the first week, took me aside and said, "You know, I have seen you and your wife and those three young kids of yours, running around the Senate. Don't ever lose your perspective on what's important. The Senate is important, and the people of Indiana have given you a tremendous responsibility. But don't forget that family." That was sage advice from a very wise man.
Early in 1981, even before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President, I had another experience with Senator John Tower, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Cap Weinberger was going to be Secretary of Defense, and our Committee had hearings before the inauguration to get him through quickly. John Tower was not one to mince words. He called upon me during the hearing, and I had done a lot of preparation. I knew I had ten minutes to ask questions, and I was up late the night before preparing for my time. I wanted to shine on my first day on the Committee. I asked, I thought, very thoughtful and penetrating questions. I was the last one on the Republican side, and by the time they got to me, I took my full ten minutes. Then the Chairman said, "Your time is up," and he went over to Senator Levin, the senior Democrat on the Committee. Then I said, "Mr. Chairman, I would like a second round of questions," which I eventually got for another five minutes.
When it was over and I started to walk out, Senator Tower said, "Come over here and sit down." Those of you who remember him well can recall that gold cigarette case he carried. He opened it up, took one out, tapped it – I knew right away I was in trouble – and said, "Do you know how long it was that I served in the U. S. Senate before I spoke?"
I said, "Well, no sir."
He said, "It was two years."
I said, "Two years?"
He said, "Yes, two years."
And I had just had two rounds of questioning.
I said, "Well, things are a little different these days."
And he said, "Yes, they are. I think if you do what I think you should do, you'll be a good member of this committee."
That was a real introduction to the seniority system and what it meant to be chairman of a Senate committee.
But tonight our topic isn't individuals. It is the Senate as an institution.
In the Senate, the Best Years
Though I have been an infrequent visitor here since the election of eight years ago, I have kept in close touch with many of you, both in Washington and out on the campaign trail. I watch C-Span regularly and I often follow the live action on the Senate floor. And when I hear "Murkowski, Murray, Nickles" and then they skip over to Reed, I think I should be there to cast a vote on a Gorton Amendment in the nature of a substitute to whatever bill is pending. That hasn't changed, Slade, since those days we came to the Senate together in 1980.
Here in the Senate, as Senator Lott and Senator Daschle pointed out, the Vice President is referred to as "the President." There is a scene in the film classic, "Advise and Consent," in which someone seated in the gallery tries to explain to a distinguished foreign visitor why the debating Senators addressed the Vice President as "Mr. President."
There is an official, constitutional answer to that question. But another response might be that, for some of us, it is as close as we are ever going to come.
One who came that close was Walter Mondale, who swore me in as a Senator in 1981. He was a lame duck Vice President at that time. I will never forget the remarks he made to me after he swore me in. He looked over and said, "You know, being in the Senate, those were the best years of my life."
I was taken aback at the time and didn't really appreciate what he was saying until I followed in his footsteps, going from the Senate to the vice presidency. Clearly, working in the White House has a sense of drama. There seems to be a crisis every single moment, certainly every hour. Howard Baker well knows the differences between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. In the former, you are always involved in discussions and decisions on national and international challenges facing the nation. But when you are Vice President, it is impressed upon you that you are Number Two, not Number One. And if you forget that, the President's staff will remind you. That is a major difference between being Vice President and being a Senator.
When you are a Senator, you are your own person. You have real autonomy. You make individual decisions. It is not a team consensus. You are, in a way, an independent conscience in this institution. The best word to describe a Senator is: free. He or she is free to stand up and debate, free to speak his or her own mind, free to act according to his or her best judgment. A Senator can be free in a way no modern Vice President can ever think of being. That is a significant difference.
Like any former Senator -- I said this, with Senator Lott and Senator Daschle, to the press before we came in -- the longer you are away from this institution, the more love and respect you have for it. Remember the old adage: The grass always looks greener on the other side" -- until you get there. That's not to say that Marilyn and I aren't enjoying our life in the private sector, fully engaged in other things. But the Senate years, as you think back, were some of the best years. Walter Mondale had it right: These are the years you will cherish most. And just put this in the bank: When you leave the Senate, you will miss it.
Where else can one person, if determined, have the power to so influence public policy? There is no other legislative body in the world like the U. S. Senate. And I hope, Senators, that this never changes.
When I first ran for Congress in 1976 -- I was old, Trent, I was 29 -- I never really thought much about what the Congress would be like at the end of the Twentieth Century. We took for granted the stability and permanence of our political institutions. Today, however, at the beginning of this new century, I do wonder what the Senate will be like a quarter-century from now.
We always like to stress the continuity of the Senate, its endurance as "a necessary fence," to use the phrase Senator Byrd has popularized. And indeed, there is much to be said for that aspect of this body. When I came to the Senate as a freshman twenty years ago, Senators Byrd and Thurmond and Helms were already veterans. And some of the individuals who will be elected this year may retain their seats here for two or three or even four decades.
The Evolving Vice Presidency
But the question is not what happens to individuals. The important question is what may happen to the institution they collectively form. We sometimes underestimate changes because they occur gradually and, in most cases, make sense when they are occurring. Just look at the Vice President's office. Old timers around Washington remember how Richard Nixon -- a former Senator -- became the first Vice President to have an office anywhere in the Executive Branch, in fact, in the Old Executive Office Building, to make it easier for him to participate in the discussions and events of the White House.
That indicated an important evolution in the office Mr. Nixon then held. Even so, it was not until Jimmy Carter was elected that Vice President Mondale -- another former Senator -- was given an office in the West Wing itself.
That, too, was a sign of how the office had evolved. In less than three decades, the second-highest constitutional role in the nation had changed from a largely ceremonial function to an integral part of presidential operations, with the Vice President's desk only a few steps away from what might be called the command center of the western world. By the way, the one piece of advice I gave to my successor, Al Gore, was to hold on to that West Wing office -- no matter who else wanted it.
Just as an aside, since Harry Truman held the office, it's been a tradition that Vice Presidents engrave their names in the vice presidential desk. I assume Al Gore has done that too. Hubert Humphrey was the exception. He didn't sign the desk because Lyndon Johnson had gotten so used to it, he took it with him to the presidency. And so, Humphrey's name is not there with the rest of us.
But to sum up the change in the vice presidency, in mid-century, the Vice President worked here in the Capitol and occasionally rode down to the White House. By the mid-1970s, he worked in the White House and occasionally rode down to the Capitol.
That change reflected far more important changes in the functioning of the American government, as the pressures of the modern state -- not to mention the constant dangers of the Cold War -- forced the integration of the vice presidency into the daily operations of the Executive Branch. Today it is unthinkable that any Vice President -- any President of the Senate -- should be as distant, either physically or operationally distant, from the Oval Office as most Vice Presidents were until a half-century ago.
Would the Framers of the Constitution approve of this change? I think so, for even in their lifetime it became clear that their original concept of the Vice Presidency, as the consolation prize for the runner-up in the presidential balloting, just didn't work. Remember, it took more than a half-century to settle the question of succession: that the president of the Senate really does become president of the nation, not just a caretaker, when the presidency becomes vacant. That aspect of the job wasn't pinned down until John Tyler -- "His Accidency," they called him -- followed the deceased William Henry Harrison into the White House.
Changing circumstances have left their mark on the Senate as well. I leave it to you to debate whether the era of big government is over. What matters is that the Senate, by helping to create big government over a period of many decades, has had to adapt to the big government it created. You might say, once you raise an 800 pound gorilla, you still have to feed it, clean up after it, and be careful so it doesn't crush you.
The same holds true for an 800 pound -- or $1.76 trillion -- Executive Branch of government. Once you've created it, you've got to keep feeding it, clean up its multiple mistakes, and make sure it doesn't reverse roles and become the master of the situation.
That, I believe, is the situation facing the Senate today, a situation that has already significantly changed this body, and a situation which has the potential to fundamentally change what this Senate can do, and what this Senate is, in the years ahead.
The Senate takes pride in its role as the anchor of government, holding fast and steady, guarding against abuses of power, keeping a wary oversight eye on the reach of the Executive Branch. And so the Senate remains, but perhaps not as much as in years gone by. Would the Senate of, say, thirty years ago have allowed a president, any president, to issue and enforce executive orders with the scope of those of recent years?
The Senate is proud to be a deliberative body, unique in all the world. But today there is just too much to deliberate about, as the Congress tries to fill the role of a national school board, a national police department, a national economic referee -- not to mention micromanaging the medical care of some 280 million Americans. Any institution as overextended as is today's Congress has little time for true deliberation.
The Senate is also proud of the personal side of Senate life. Senator Daschle mentioned the bipartisan effort I made on the Job Training Partnership Act, when I asked Senator Kennedy to join me in passing that legislation. I think, Senator Kennedy, if you and I agreed on a bill, there wasn't much room for dissent. I gave; he gave; the House gave. The bill went through in 1982, and most of it is still intact today.
I believe you would concur that the Senate's best debates -- the ones that truly get the Senate going and are educational for the American people -- are bipartisan debates, in which the two sides do not divide along strict party lines. Yes, from time to time you have to have partisan fights, but as I said, the leaders have to work together to get things done and make the legislative machine work.
It's been said by some pundits -- and I hear it often from Members of the House and Senate -- that the Congress today has become a community of strangers. There is so much to do, so many things going on legislatively and otherwise, so many demands for fundraising, so many demands from constituents, particularly with e-mail and all sorts of instant communication, that Members do not have time for the real business at hand. Nor do they have time to get to know one another. That's why I congratulate Senator Lott for coming up with this Leader's Lecture Series, and Senator Daschle for joining with him in it, to take a moment to think about where this institution is going.
Finally, the Senate is proud of its rules, the rules that protect minority rights and individual prerogatives as they are nowhere else protected. Now, explaining the rules to White House staff who have not served here in the Senate is difficult. Go try to explain -- I'm sure Senator Daschle has had to do this -- what a "hold" is and how it works. Even if you go over these things again and again, they won't have a clue as to the inner workings and personal relationships that are so important in the life of the Senate.
Of course, the Senate's rules have always been subject to change. But changing them is one thing; nullifying them by indirection is quite another. Since the Budget Act of 1974, that indirect approach to getting the Senate's business done has threatened to become a permanent part of the legislative process, as the Senate's rules are, in effect, displaced by mere legislation. Legislation requiring only a simple majority, not the two-thirds vote that is supposed to be required for a rules change. And legislation, moreover, to which the House of Representatives and the Executive Branch are parties.
The Budget Act is only one example of the dangerous tendency to give up on ordinary Senate procedures to look for an extraordinary way out. I hope I am not the only person in this chamber who is uncomfortable with that process. The more it is followed, as the easy way out of sticky situations, the more the Senate becomes just another cog in a legislative machine -- an outcome none of us wants to see.
So how can the Senate avoid that outcome? How can the Senate preserve its uniqueness and maintain its standing a quarter-century, indeed, a half-century from now? I'd like to offer four modest suggestions.
First, if the core problem, the core change over the last thirty years, is that government has grown to tremendous proportions and even larger appetites, the simplest solution is to downsize government. But as President Reagan once observed, there may be simple solutions, but not necessarily easy ones.
I had some experience in downsizing when Senator Baker appointed me to chair a committee on the reorganization of the Senate. I was complaining about the creation of yet another committee, and he said, "Fine, it's time that all the committees and subcommittees be examined."
Some of you will recall conversations I had with you about this. The one I will never forget was with Senator Lowell Weicker. Orrin remembers him quite well from their service on the Labor and Human Resources Committee. If any of you want to have an interesting experience, try explaining to Senator Weicker why he has to give up three or four of his subcommittees -- because, at the time, he was serving on seventeen.
To his credit, he did give up about three subcommittees and was very gracious about it, because it took him only three years to speak to me again.
So I know the hazards of downsizing. It is not easy.
My second proposal is a reminder that "Advise and consent" does not mean "control and manipulate." Having dealt with this problem from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I can't help but think there is now an imbalance, improperly tilted away from the presidency, in international matters.
For example, we now have legislatively imposed sanctions, of one degree or another, against 65 foreign nations. It may be that each of those countries needs correction; but when our government is in good working order, the president decides that and takes action accordingly. In the absence of such leadership, perhaps it is inevitable that the Congress would assume direction of foreign relations. But over the long run, that is not a healthy state of affairs.
I'm not for total deference toward the Executive Branch when it comes to foreign policy. I think the Congress should be involved. But I think Congress should be more selective when it gets involved. If you are more selective, then your involvement will be more meaningful. But I have always been a proponent of bringing the Congress on board
That is why, for example, I thought it my responsibility, serving under President Bush, to be an internal advocate for the role of the Senate, in both domestic and international issues. That was especially the case with regard to the President's decision to seek the Senate's authorization to use American military might in the Persian Gulf.
Everyone looks back now and says that was a slam-dunk. It wasn't. The vote in the Senate was 52-48. There was a real question of whether we would have the votes. But you would be surprised how many individuals, at the very highest level of the Bush Administration, argued vehemently for bypassing the Congress on that resolution. They said we didn't, constitutionally, have to come to the Senate for a vote. We might not have the votes. History would judge us on what the outcome of the war would be.
There was a serious discussion in the Oval Office on that particular issue. Fortunately, President Bush made the right decision and came to the Congress, as he should have, asked for support, and explained what was going on with Iraq. We did get bipartisan support. Coming from the Senate, as Vice President, I think I was able to be helpful in that situation.
Do you realize how many Senators became Vice President in recent decades? Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, myself, and Al Gore. So perhaps it's time for a former Secretary of Defense to assume that office.
Now, a third suggestion. Whoever is elected as president this year will come to the Congress in January with his own priorities, and those priorities should be respected, whether or not they are ever enacted. But the Senate ought to have its priorities as well, and they should be in terms of process. Robert Frost wrote that "good fences make good neighbors." It is time, I think, to look at rebuilding certain walls. The walls, for example, that should keep the Congress from micromanaging foreign affairs -- as well as the walls which should constrain the president from attempting to legislate by executive order.
Most of all, we need to strengthen the internal walls of this institution: the rules and procedures which make the Senate, the Senate. Those walls alone can preserve this body against the forces which would, in effect, dumb it down to irrelevance.
My fourth and final point is perhaps the most important one. With the loss of tradition, the emergence of cyber-politics, the continuing media revolution in all aspects of society, the uncharted prospects of the New Economy, the only certainty in our political future is uncertainty. How do we deal with that uncertainty?
What the Senate needs to counter that uncertainty is just what has always been its greatest strength: the extraordinary caliber of those who comprise this body. That may be difficult to maintain in this time of cynicism and apathy. It is going to be difficult in this time of peace and prosperity, when there seems to be no great cause worth fighting for. But raising the standard of democratic government is a great cause -- and preserving the character of this Senate is an essential element of that cause.
As Members or former Members of the Senate, I think it is our obligation to try to recruit good people to public service, men and women whose character and conscience will raise the standing of government itself in the eyes of the American people.
For more than anything else, it is the quality of the individuals who assemble under this roof that will determine whether, at the end of another century, this Senate will still stand, alone and apart from all other legislative bodies, as the heart and the balance of a democratic republic.
Preserving the Senate as a unique institution will not be easy. It will take hard work, determination, tough decisions. But you all do that every day. So keep up the good work. Keep the Senate's future always in mind. I love this place. I always have, and always will. Thank you for inviting me back.
Return to Leader's Lecture Series Table of Contents Page