Modernization Hub

Modernization and Improvement
Lion of the Senate

Lion of the Senate

(applause) Good afternoon. I’m Jean MacCormack,
and I have the privilege of serving as the President of
the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Welcome to the heart
of the institute, our chamber, where every day senators
in training are debating the issues that matter. Yesterday we had a wonderful
eight-year-old stand in opposition to something
and be very articulate. I often think when I see that
that Senator Kennedy would smile. We are delighted to have so many
of you here with us today for this program
which celebrates the new bookLion of the Senate
by our own board member Nick Littlefield
and our alumni Dave Nexon. And welcome to many alumni who
served with Senator Kennedy. As we often say, you may be
off the payroll, but you’re never off the staff. We’re happy to have you
all here, and especially happy to have our board members here,
Barbara Souliotis, Nick, Lee Fentress. I don’t see anyone else
who’s here… So happy to have you
all with us. We’re pleased to be able
to hold this program, and to have a remarkable group
of speakers and panelists, all with their own unique
thoughts and perspectives on the senator,
that significant period of time that the book talks about,
and on bipartisan efforts and what makes them work. We are thrilled to have
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Vicki Kennedy, Mike Myers,
Trish Knight, all of them together, and to have
this great panel moderated by noted journalist
Tom Oliphant. We’re sorry that Nick
can’t be here in this room with us, but he certainly is
here in spirit, and in our hearts,
and he will see and hear us, because we are streaming this
to his computer live. But here to offer words for Nick
and for his family is Nick’s wife,
Jenny Littlefield. (applause)>>I want to start by thanking the staff
here at the institute for making this event possible,
with special thanks to Kelly Bovio, who has put up
with us for weeks. Now I’m going to read
what Nick wrote. “Thank you for coming. “It means the world to me
that you are here. “I’m sorry I can’t be here
with you, but I am enjoying this “at home over live video feed. “As you all know,
if I were there, I would be “singling out each one of you
and describing at great length “your help in the creation
of this book, your part in “all the experiences,
and your place in the memory “that went into its making, “and your contribution
to the creation “of this beautiful institute,
perhaps the most fitting tribute “to the incredible man
who brought us all together. “Senator Kennedy and Vicki
deserve our eternal gratitude. “I also cannot fail
to mention here “the extraordinary leadership
of Jack Conners and Lee Fentress “in bringing this institute
to life. “My deepest gratitude
to David Nexon, whose dedication “and contributions
to the final stages “of writing the book
was absolutely essential “to making it happen. “I also want to thank
Doris Kearns Goodwin “for her enthusiastic
and immediate endorsement “of the book, and her brilliant
introduction, and Jim Carroll “for his invaluable input,
support, and guidance “in the concluding stages
of the project. “Thank you also
to my dear friends Trish Knight “and Michael Myers
for coming to be on the panel, “and our beloved Tom Oliphant
for leading the discussion. “Finally I want to thank
my children and my wife, “who are all here. “It was with enormous gratitude
and love that I dedicated “the book to them. “Jenny, of course, won’t agree,
but I like to say “that I consider myself
not entirely unlucky “to have this
neurological disease, “because it means I can
truly sympathize “with the 44 million
disabled Americans “whose daily struggle
is at least somewhat alleviated “by the Americans
with Disabilities Act. I finished the book
at the right time.” (applause) “As the situation
in Washington right now “further mirrors
the one described in the book, “and I hope the history laid out
inLion of the Senate“provides a useful reminder
to both sides of the aisle “of how things did and can work. “I understand, for example, that
many of our Republican friends “today possibly oppose
an increase to the minimum wage, “and there’s a very useful
chapter in the book about… (laughter) “…in 1994. “I began working on the book
in 1998, right after I left “the Senate Labor Committee. “It became another member
of our family, and we all joked “about how long it was taking. “But every moment of writing
brought back to me “the excitement of my time
in Washington. “I was truly able to fulfill
the hope of every person “who goes to work in
our nation’s capitol– “to work hard on issues
surrounded by “the best minds in the country,
to make a difference “in people’s lives, and to have
great fun doing it. “I am forever thankful “to Senator Kennedy
for that privilege. “If I could, I would end this
by singing to Vicki, “and then to all of you. “I won’t ask Jenny
to take on this task for me. “But know that I am watching
and singing and filled with joy “at this splendid event
and all the extraordinary people “in my life who have made
this day possible. “It is now with great pleasure
that I want to introduce “the man who,
as Senator Kennedy’s “senior health care advisor,
was a driving force “behind the important
legislation at the center of “this book, and whom I have
the great pleasure of calling my coauthor, David Nexon.” (applause)>>Well, it’s certainly
a wonderful pleasure to be here with so many friends,
so many friends of Nick, so many friends of the senator. Thanks to Jean MacCormack
and and the EMK Institute for putting on the event. And Jenny, thanks so much
for that lovely introduction. Anyone who has been close
to this project knows without Jenny there would be
no book to talk about today. (applause) First, the EMK Institute
is a wonderful place to discuss this book. Not only because its subjects
are Senator Kennedy and the U.S. Senate,
but because of Nick. And as has been mentioned,
Nick was not only extremely close
to Senator Kennedy, but he has been a key factor
in bringing this wonderful… the senator’s wonderful vision
for this place into a reality. Now, I think almost everybody
here knows that Nick was Senator Kennedy’s
Labor Committee staff director, and effectively his top
domestic policy advisor from 1989 to 1998. He had a truly remarkable
insider’s view of the events we focus on in the book during
the critical years 1995 to 1997. His role as staff director,
and his closeness to Senator Kennedy
put him really at the center of the action, and also
placed him in private meetings with the President, with other
senators, with outside leaders. The book benefitted tremendously
not only from the dedication and insight he brought to it
from that, but from the special access
that he was able to talk about and reflect inside the book. As Jenny mentioned, the book
had its origin… or as Nick said
in his own statement, the book had its origin
when Nick left the Senate in 1998 and wrote
the first draft over the ensuing two years. I joined the project in 2012,
and worked with Nick to put the book in shape
for publication, as well as adding some material
based on my own knowledge and involvement in the events
in the book. Those of you who know Nick,
and I think most of the people here do,
and saw the recent article in the Boston Herald about him,
know what a tremendous health challenge he faced
in completing this document. It’s really an inspiring story,
and I feel privileged to have worked with him
on this project as I did to work with him
on the senator’s staff. We had several objectives
in this book that were part of Nick’s original vision,
and one that really evolved late in the process. First, it was a tribute
to Senator Kennedy, not just by singing his praises
as so many have, but by showing him at the height
of his powers in the fight of his life for the causes
he had worked for all his life, using the government
as a positive force to improve people’s lives,
to secure social justice, to help those who are
most vulnerable– all the things that were threatened
by the Gingrich revolution. Second, we wanted to create
an exciting narrative about how the resistance
to the Gingrich agenda evolved, how it had seemed
an irresistible right wing tide was ultimately stopped,
and how Senator Kennedy, even in that
hostile environment, was able to pass major progressive
legislation– an increase in the minimum wage,
groundbreaking health insurance reform, and the child
health insurance program. When the victorious Republicans
swept into town in January 1995, no one would have believed
that enacting these bills was anything more than
a fantasy– no one except Senator Kennedy. The third thing we wanted
to show in this book was how the Senate works
from Nick’s up close and personal account, viewpoint. The book is told
in the first person, and it gives a vivid account
of the folkways of the Senate, the unique ways in which
it operates, and what it’s like to be a staff member there. And Nick, I think, has got
a real gift for narration, which comes out very clearly
in this book. Fourth, we wanted to explain
the senator’s strategic formula for success in enacting not only
progressive legislation, but really any
major legislation. None of us who worked
with Senator Kennedy believe anyone will ever be his equal. But any legislator, and indeed
any citizen, can learn from how he accomplished what he did. Finally, as things worked out
as a result of the book’s long gestation, it has
particular relevance and special lessons for today,
and it gave a real… I think a special urgency to our
work in finishing the project. I know Doris is going to talk
about this a bit more, but I did want to emphasize
that as we completed this work, we were very aware
that the situation today is extraordinarily similar
to the one Senator Kennedy faced in 1995, and the way he handled
it has invaluable lessons, I think, for all of us today. Today, as then, Republicans
control both houses of Congress, they confront
a Democratic President, they espouse a radically
conservative view of the role of government, and an agenda
that is largely identical to the one that Congressman
Gingrich failed to enact in 1995. They have used the budget
process and the threat of a government default
as a lever to try to force through the changes
that they want. The Congress seems gridlocked,
progress seems hopeless. But as Senator Kennedy showed,
it doesn’t have to be that way. Those are the main goals we had
in writing a book, but there’s a lot more in it
that I hope, you know, readers will enjoy– the role
of music in the incredible relationship between Senator
Kennedy and Senator Hatch, the… Nick and Patrick
Kennedy’s mad dash to the Arlington
National Cemetery to get soil from the Kennedy grave site
to take to the Rabin funeral, the way Senator Kennedy’s
efforts to pass the minimum wage tied Senator Dole up
on the Senate floor and essentially sunk
his presidential campaign, the senator’s largely unknown
but very important role in the passage of
the Affordable Care Act, the genesis of the Ryan White
AIDS care bill, and much more. Before I introduce
Doris Kearns Goodwin, I’d like to close by reading
from the conclusion of the book, just a few paragraphs
which I think says what we thought as we really…
when Nick undertook this whole endeavor,
and as we finished it. “Kennedy’s life and legislative
career are the stuff of history. “But the challenges we face
as we make our own history “never end. “As Senator Kennedy said
in his speech “to the Democratic Convention
in 1980, the work goes on, “the cause endures,
the dream shall never die. “There can be no greater tribute
to his memory than to continue “to fight for that enduring
dream, and no better model for success than his example.” (applause) Thank you. And now let me introduce
Doris Kearns Goodwin. I think most of you here today
know that Doris is the author of seven wonderful books
of history and biography, includingThe Fitzgeralds
and the Kennedys
and the Pulitzer Prize winning
Team of Rivals,
about Abraham Lincoln’s
presidency. She is a frequent and incisive
commentator on politics and policy, and she was a friend
and frequent source of wonderful advice
for Senator Kennedy. Nick and I were deeply honored
when she decided to write the introduction to
The Lion of the Senate.
Doris? (applause)>>History at its best,
I believe, is about telling stories–
stories about people who lived before, stories about
events in the past that create the contours
of the present. I think we have to hope
that by studying the lives of those who lived before us,
we can learn from their struggles
and their triumphs. And what makes this book,
The Lion of the Senate,
so compelling is that
it tells a story. It tells a story beginning
with the Gingrich revolution of 1994 that brought in
this transformation of control to the Republicans
in the House and the Senate. TheNew York Timesnoted
at the time, “This is a shift of major proportions,” it said. “Republicans have not been
in control since 1954,” 50 years earlier…
40 years earlier, when the Dodgers, it said,
were still in Brooklyn, and when the postage stamp
was only three cents. Well, the story carries us from
the devastating mood that really enveloped
the Democrats at the time– they’d lost committee members,
they’d lost staff, they’d lost the chance to set the agenda,
they’d lost office space– to Teddy Kennedy’s rallying
the troops, not only to block the worst of the Republican
agenda, but as was said, to pass positive legislation
on minimum wage, children’s health insurance,
portable health insurance, and to do it on
a bipartisan basis. The story is not only
historically significant, but it offers powerful examples
for leaders today when we despair over
our broken Washington. What makes it so rich in detail
is that Nick had the presence of mind
to actually write notes after each one of these meetings
that he would go to. He took the time, which we
so rarely do, to reflect on them even at that moment. Historians treasure more than
anything diaries and letters. I mean, I couldn’t have
written the books I’ve written without those diaries
that people kept at the end of the day,
without letters that they wrote to their wives
and their families, ten-page letters at night. I worry what will happen
to people, historians, 200 years from now. They’ll be trying
to recreate our lives. They’ll have so much stuff–
they’ll see how we walked and talked, they’ll watch
what we said on Twitter, perhaps, but they won’t know
the intimate details from that verbatim understanding
that comes from a letter or a diary or notes
taken at the time. So Nick’s notes
become a treasure source that makes this book
so real in life. The ultimate key
that the book shows is that the success that Teddy Kennedy
achieved was due to the relationships
that he had built over time so carefully in the Senate,
nurtured over the years. From such relationships, I fear,
are in such short supply today. Senators, Congressmen,
don’t even have the time to spend time with each other. They’re racing home
on Thursdays. They want to raise funds. That money is the poison
in the system that they’re spending so much time on. They’re spending time
on Facebook. They’re not even talking to
staff, much less to one another. But in Teddy Kennedy’s time,
he understood that relationships were the key to everything. And he… you’ll see
the great stories in here about Orrin Hatch,
as David suggested. I mean, Hatch had gone to
Teddy’s mother’s funeral. Teddy had gone to Hatch’s
mother’s funeral. And most importantly,
Hatch loved to sing, and he would make up songs,
and he’d play the tapes of his songs. And so at one point,
Teddy had Nick, with that beautiful once-on-Broadway
voice, sing one of Hatch’s songs. And finally Hatch
had to give in– he had to give in to whatever
Teddy wanted. “Nice move, Teddy,” he said,
knowing that he had been bested. And then, when Teddy
wanted funds to restore the house at Longfellow
in Cambridge, and he needed the support of Senator Byrd, the
Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, what does he do? He memorizes Longfellow’s
famous poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” and he’s
continuing to say it over and over again,
until finally, I think, Senator Byrd said, “Okay,
I’ll give you the funds.” And then there’s this
great story of inviting Senator Thurmond,
Strom Thurmond, at 89 years old, to dinner at Teddy’s house,
and somehow they ask him, “How did you stay so…
great shape?” And so at 89 years old,
he pantomimes his whole gym routine
every morning with the grunts and the things
going up and down. Those kind of relationships are
what make things work in life, as well as in the Senate. And in a certain sense
I think what the book shows is a love that Teddy Kennedy
had, and that Nick and David had, for this institution
of the Senate. I worry sometimes that today,
the people who are there in these Congress and
Senate seats, do they really recognize the history
of the Senate, of the institution,
of what it did? That’s why this room
is so incredible, this institute is so incredible. If you feel it, you feel
like you’ve come home, as I think Teddy Kennedy
often did. He felt like the Senate
was his home. He understood its rules,
he understood its quirks, he understood its rituals,
he recognized that seniority was a big deal in the Senate. So what does he do when he wants
to get somebody’s support, a junior senator? He goes to that person’s office,
rather than the other way around. When he wanted someone
in Congress to come with him on something, he would walk
over to the House, defying that sort of sense of hierarchy
that too often paralyzes things. He hung out at the elevator
at times, just sort of waiting for some Senator to come by,
so he could buttonhole him. At a certain point, when he
wanted to stiffen the spine of President Clinton,
he actually got himself involved with a group of Mass troops…
troopers that were coming to a White House ceremony. He sat in the front row,
and how could Clinton do otherwise and say,
“Hello, Senator”? And the next thing you know
they’re having a 45-minute talk. The next thing you know,
something is happening. Horse trading happened
in those days. Now we have a sense
that it’s all transparent, and you shouldn’t bargain,
you shouldn’t trade things, you can’t have earmarks. It worked. It was part of what made
compromise work in that time. But most importantly,
what you see is that ability to cross party lines
to get something done. It made the Republicans
who came with him feel proud that they were
part of children’s health, proud in some ways too that they
had gone along on minimum wage. And it makes you believe,
I think as David said, that if this leadership
could make this happen at that time, and we’re facing
a similar time today, then perhaps it can
happen again. That’s what history can do–
give you hope and solace from the past that the present
can be made better. But I think in some ways
perhaps the most inspiring story of all is the story of
howThe Lion of the Senatewas completed in these
last years, as Nick’s relentless illness
took hold, gradually taking away his strength, his body,
his faculties. What really happened, his
daughter Kate Lowenstein said, is that piece by piece
everything he loved to do was taken away, his great
physical joys one by one– jogging, tennis, swimming,
singing, and finally speaking itself. But what still remains
so incredibly strong is his mind and his heart. And that combination,
along with David’s help, along with the help
of technology to translate his thoughts into printed words,
and most importantly, along with a loving circle
of family and friends, have brought this splendid book
to life. And what a book it is–
hands down, in my judgment, the best book on the
inner dynamics of the Senate. Hands down the best book
on the incredible leadership skills and attributes
of Senator Kennedy. This is a book, I believe,
that will be read for generations, a book
that will keep the memory alive of a very special time
and a place when the Lion of the Senate roamed
the halls of the Congress, when he was able
to work together with Republicans to make
our country a better place. Bringing back the past has been
the joy of my professional life. Indeed, I’ve spent years
living with dead presidents, hoping to bring them back
to life, waking up with them in the morning, thinking
about them when I go to sleep at night. Because I do believe that
when we can tell these stories of people who lived before,
they truly do come back to life. I truly believe that
the people we have loved and lost in our own families,
and the public figures we have respected in history,
really can live on, so long as we pledge to tell
and to retell the stories of their lives. I am so glad to be a little part
of this story tonight. Thank you. (applause)>>THOMAS OLIPHANT: Can
everybody hear me okay? That’s good. This is kind of like
herding cats, so I apologize in advance. But we’ll try to keep it
intellectually orderly. We’re going to babble up here
for a little while, at which point,
after 15 or 20 minutes, you might think of
a question or two. And when we call for them, someone will come
and give you a microphone so that we can hear you. And we’ll take Q and A
for a while, and then they always give me
the unpleasant duty of calling a halt
to the proceedings, at which point we will have
a very special treat at the end. So with that in mind,
our story begins… part of what makes it
so dramatic is that it begins in a moment of personal triumph
and larger, crushing defeat. Senator Kennedy had been
reelected in 1994 by just a point or so less than
his typical landslide margin. It was about 18 points,
over some guy with Utah ties, Trish Knight. (laughter) And… but at the same time,
his party had lost control of the House for the first time
in 40 years, and of the Senate after a brief period
in the majority, and he was looking at odds in the Senate
that would make even Sisyphus blanch. And I thought we’d begin with a
very special panelist. You know, there’s a lot
of people here, no doubt, from Massachusetts, where people fancy themselves
great aficionados of politics. But there’s another place in America where they
put politics in your gene structure, and
it’s a place called Louisiana. And a product of that amazing
culture… her dad, you know, is on the very, very short list
of the people who helped John Kennedy carry Louisiana
in 1960. And of course, she went on
to become Senator Kennedy’s beloved wife, et cetera,
et cetera. So it’s only natural that I turn
to somebody I love to hear talk about policy and politics,
Vicki Kennedy. (applause) Help us understand how
the senator looked at the ’94 election as he sifted
through all those numbers.>>Well, first of all, thank you so much, Tom Oliphant,
for being here and being our moderator. And thank all of you
for being here. Nick, we love you. The book is fantastic,
absolutely fantastic. I love talking about
the ’94 election, because it was…
it was exhilarating. And it was also complicated,
because that night was bittersweet. But I’d like to think about the
sweet part first, if I could. And I go back to Labor Day
of ’94, if I could, in thinking about it, when Teddy’s aides
came to him and said… well, actually
they came to me and said, “We’ve got to let
the senator know, and maybe you should let him know
because, you know, you’re his wife and all,
that the race is kind of even. He and Mitt Romney are even.” And I said, “I think
maybe you should tell him, because, you know…” (laughter) And so Teddy’s reaction was, “We’re even Steven?” For those of you… so we had
a meeting in our apartment to sort of talk about,
“Okay, what’s the strategy, where do we go from here?” And this said it all to me
about Teddy. He… different people
had different ideas, and one of the recommendations
was, “You know, people “are hurting, this is
a different kind of mood out there, and you really need
to rethink some of your views.” You know, “This is a new time,
and you need to think about “really getting behind
this welfare reform bill. “People want to see a new you,
they want to see something new in welfare, you need to come up
with something new.” And Teddy sat back in that chair
and got that look that many of you know so well. And he said, “I’m not winning
this election on the back “of poor women and children. What’s your next idea?” And it was just…
it was fantastic. Because he said he had to be
true to who he was. And while it was a very
competitive election, he said it was not his hardest election,
because he knew exactly who he was and what he believed. The first question
in the debate, that first debate with Romney… and I’m getting
to your answer. But the first question
was from Sally Jacobs of theBoston Globe.And she said, “Senator, why is
this race even close?” And in it I think is the seed
of the answer to your question. He said, “People are hurting. “People are worried. “We’ve lost a lot of jobs
in New England in particular, “but really around the country. And there are simple, easy
answers, and they’re wrong.” He used to love that expression. And that’s what I think he felt
happened on election night– that there were simple,
easy answers around the country that people had grabbed onto
because they were hurting, the economy had been struggling,
and they grabbed onto the wrong answers. So he came out invigorated by
his own victory, because he had been true to what his principles
were, and gotten out, and talked to people,
and let them know that he was still there fighting for them,
but was determined to be the messenger for something
other than the wrong, simple, easy answers, and felt that
the Democratic Party had to be that messenger,
and to be true to its values, and to continue to give the
answers that would help people.>>Now, for simpletons like me,
there’s a line from however he felt that night
in ’94 to a moment at the end of January that first
year of the Gingrich revolution, when he showed up
at the National Press Club and delivered a speech
that made you think of the one at the Democratic National
Convention in 1980, or at least it made me think of it. And the line there was, “The
last thing this country needs is two Republican parties.” Now, give us just a little sense
of the journey in his heart as well as in his head
from election night to that moment at the end
of January when he planted the flag and the battle
was joined.>>I think it was just
not a journey. I think it was just…
it was the continuation of what he had been doing. He felt that the Democratic
Party had always been fighting for working people, and
that that was what the winning formula was,
to continue to fight for working families,
to continue to be true to principles. He loved to say, “Programs
change, our values don’t.” And that we just needed
to continue to fight for those values. And he thought it was…
I think he had something else in that speech about,
“It comes from…” something about poor grace
from those who want to be pale carbon copies or something. But he just believed strongly
that you went all out on your beliefs. You didn’t trim your sails–
you just went full-bore ahead, continuing to be true
to the principles that were progressive and helped people.>>Now, I think
we need, at this point, a little sense of the flip side
of this analysis, because it’s very important. And that’s why I turn
respectfully to Trish Knight, who may not be a household name
up here, but has been around Washington for years. As close an advisor as Senator
Orrin Hatch of Utah ever had. And the truth be told, including by Nick and David, Trish Knight is one big reason that millions of kids
around this country have health insurance today. But what I’m curious about… (applause) And we’ll get into
a little bit about how she operated in the Senate. But the first thing
I wanted to ask your indulgence to do, Trish, is tell us
a little bit from Senator Hatch’s perspective how
the ’94 election was viewed. Did he see himself as a
revolutionary with an agenda? How did he interpret that
earthquake election?>>Thank you for that. And his long introduction
was just really saying that I’m the token Republican. (laughter) It’s the role
I accept willingly. First of all, there was
a subtle dialogue underneath all of the dialogue
about the Health Security Act with Senator Hatch, and that was
that we had been engaged in a three-year effort
to get legislation on dietary supplements
through the Congress. And it was very important to
Senator Hatch and to Utah. And Senator Kennedy
and his staff were not 100% thrilled with this bill,
but the relationship enabled them to move the bill
along, much to the consternation of Congressman Waxman,
the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee in the House. And I can remember very vividly, it was near the end of 1994 when we reached the deal
on that legislation. And many in the industry
were saying, “Well, maybe we “should just walk away. “It’s not good enough. “Because next year maybe
we’ll be in the majority, and we’ll get a better deal.” And I don’t believe
that we really thought that was necessarily true. I remember thinking that–
“Let’s just get what we can now.” Senator…>>OLIPHANT: Do you think
he had a sense of the fragility of a majority, even when it’s
the result of a landslide?>>KNIGHT: Oh, absolutely. But I think… I mean, obviously
the Health Security Act was a big dynamic,
and we felt that that hand had been overplayed. That said, one could say that
about the Affordable Care Act, yet it was enacted. So it was a very
interesting time. And I had been working in
Congress 20 years at that point. I had never worked
in the majority. And I honestly didn’t believe
it was going to happen. I really… sometimes I still
don’t think it happened.>>Did he have an agenda? In other words, we’re sort of
familiar up here with Senator Kennedy,
and what has mattered most to him over the years. One of the easier things
about covering him was that it didn’t really change. But I want you to try to help us understand
where Hatch was coming from.>>Well, what was significant
about the change was that he became the Chairman
of the Judiciary Committee. So before he had played
a more major role on the Labor Committee,
we were switching to emphasize things like… regulatory reform
was a huge agenda item. Or some of the nomination
fights. And so our whole domain changed
into one that was more judiciary driven, and we
in the health world tried to carve out a niche
for ourselves within that. So I think that we were less…
we were less important in that world, because
there were other things taking place as far as
judicial nominations and big ticket criminal justice
issues, malpractice.>>OLIPHANT: Now, I’m going to
ask for Doris’s perspective in a second. Every once in a while the thing
you do when you have Doris on a panel like this
is you turn to her and ask, “What does it all mean, Doris?” (laughter) But I need David and Michael’s
help to get into the weeds just a little bit. And David, as Kennedy
looked at the landscape, how did he happen to see,
with some specificity, a way forward, despite
the minority status? And how did Nick
and he interact? You watched that very closely.>>Yeah, well,
they were a little bit like squabbling siblings,
with the senator clearly the older brother
in the relationship. But, you know, obviously
we were all on the same… there was team effort
in Senator Kennedy’s office. Everybody felt they were
part of a team that Senator Kennedy was
the captain of. He had a tremendous…
Kennedy had a tremendous strategic vision as well as
a great tactical sense. And we talk in the book…
I wasn’t in that meeting, but Nick was. He and Nick and Carey Parker
sat down the day after the election…>>OLIPHANT: Carey Parker
being the senator’s legislative assistant
for 800 years, and probably knows more about the Senate
than…>>A wonderful,
wonderful person. And Senator Kennedy said our…
you know, there was… as Vicki said, there was
no wavering about what he wanted to do. What he said was, “Our first job
is to get the Democrats “together. “They’re worried, they’re
disoriented, they’re wondering “if they should move
to the middle. “So our whole effort has to be
to get them together, “both to resist
the Gingrich agenda, “which is very revolutionary,
very radical, and also we need “to start moving ahead
on positive things, just as if we were still in the majority.” And the things he identified
at that point were the minimum wage
and health reform as the two…>>OLIPHANT: Why?>>NEXON: Well, I think
he thought that the minimum wage was right, in a sense,
you know, was very… obviously very needed. He had put it off. You know, he had been the leader
in raising the minimum wage a number of times previously. And it was overdue
for being risen in terms of its declining power
in terms of inflation. And he had not taken any action
on it in the previous Congress, because we had an
employer mandate in the Clinton Affordable
Healthcare Act, and he felt that would be piling on
too much, and too difficult in that environment. But with that no longer
on the table, he thought it was time to move ahead
on the minimum wage. On the Kennedy-Kassebaum Health
Insurance Reform, he didn’t despair of moving
forward, you know? He said, “Well, we’re not
going to get universal. Let’s see what we can get,”
which was the way he always approached these things.>>OLIPHANT: And by the way,
that last name refers to a diminutive lady, very nice,
somewhat different than Senator Hatch
in personality, but very effective inside the
club named Nancy Kassebaum.>>NEXON: Yes, and she was… would become the chair of the
committee as a result of the election. And so they found common ground
on the things… they’d worked together
on the Affordable Care Act, even though they couldn’t
reach agreement ultimately. But there were areas
they did agree on, and they agreed to pick those up
and move forward on those.>>OLIPHANT: Michael,
we need your help. Because Michael is unusual
in this all-star lineup here, because he stayed with
the senator as his top assistant past the year 2000,
well past it, and helps us to understand that this all
didn’t stop with a few years of frenetic activity
in the mid-1990s. I’m so old, I can remember
its antecedents in the 1960s and 1970s. Michael knows all about
some very, very important work done after the turn
of the century of the Medicare part D,
the No Child Left Behind, et cetera. So I want your perspective,
Michael, that takes us from ’94 almost to the day
he passed away.>>I think a unifying theme
through all of that is courage.>>OLIPHANT: And how do you
define it?>>MYERS: It’s coming back
after ’94, everybody else is playing retail at that point. They’re thinking about
their own reelection in their own state or their own
congressional district. And it’s very hard, and it
requires courage, to say, “No, we need to think wholesale. “If you want to be reelected
in your state, we need to have a national message and a
national agenda.” So convincing people
of that when they’re scared for their political lives…>>OLIPHANT: How did he do it?>>MYERS: …requires
a lot of courage.>>OLIPHANT: Did he bang on
them, or yell, or…>>You look in
Nick and David’s book, and there’s one story
in particular where… in which the senator is…
Senator Kennedy is sitting down with other Congressional leaders in some crowded room in the
bowels of the Capitol, and they’re talking about the minimum wage, and shouldn’t
we be fighting for that? And there was a little bit
of hesitation, and people were thinking about reelection
and all of that. And Senator Kennedy, in one of
those moments that we’ve seen, the rafters start quaking at his indignation that Democrats, Democratic
leaders, nonetheless, would be mealy-mouthed
on the minimum wage. So that requires courage,
to stand up to your own leaders and say, “This is the way
we could go.” And we saw this again and again,
even after the Gingrich era, that he would be the one
who would say to the leaders, to the caucus, “This is the path
we need to take,” and to say that forcefully.>>And you’re saying, aren’t
you, that he often had to stand up to members
of his own party when it came to accepting compromises or…>>Yes, and the courage there,
too. So for example, in creating
the drug benefit in Medicare, part D of Medicare,
in pushing that along, there were people where…
it was getting close to Bush’s own reelection
at that point, and a lot of thinking that we don’t want to
give anything to President Bush, because John Kerry
might be able to beat him. And they came close. But there was an opportunity
there to do something really positive for American
seniors, and he grabbed it, even though members of his own
leadership were saying, “Don’t do it, or at least
don’t do it now.” And even though labor unions,
his friends in the labor movement,
were opposing him on that very, very strongly, he thought
it was the right thing to do, and made the agreement
with President Bush and Chuck Grassley and others
that’s now Part D of Medicare today.>>OLIPHANT: I want to follow
that with another question to Vicki, if I might. But first, Doris, help us
understand the context for this frenetic period
in Washington, D.C., between… in the mid 1990s. President of one party
of uncertain ideology sometimes, Congress in one party’s control,
and then this protean force that’s so hard to understand,
and yet so fun to watch. And as you look back through
American history– and my god, you’ve studied since
from the Civil War forward– are there analogous situations
in our history where we can compare this to something,
or does this actually merit the word unique?>>Well, I think what is
possible is that we’ve seen cycles in American history where
there is an activist government, and people feel good
about what’s happening. Whether you think about the turn
of the 20th century with the progressive movement,
and all the legislation that came out of that preventing
the exploitation of women and children in factories, and
breaking up the big monopolies. And then,
at a certain period of time, maybe partly because
of World War I, private lives and private values
become more important than some of these
collective public functions, so we went into the ’20s
with a desire for normalcy, a desire to go backward. Republican parties got
in great control, then comes the Depression
and you get the New Deal and World War II, and then
you have a period of time in the ’50s again,
where there’s a pull back, and there’s a desire
to let government be smaller because it’s become bigger. And then you have
the ’60s, again, where again you’ve got that rise
of the Civil Rights Movement and the social movements pushing
in from the outside in. And you’ve got a great deal
of activism, a lot of legislation, and then
the war in Vietnam happens, but also maybe just one
of these cycles that Schlesinger says happens. And then you get Reagan
in the 1980s, and then you do
have Clinton winning that election
in ’92, but I think, even while he won it, this undercurrent of frustration
with government that was being felt by large
sections of the country, the concern about law
and order that certainly was a part
of Gingrich’s control. The feeling that too many people
were staying in Washington and worried about themselves
so that his term limit thing had certain kinds of… He came up with
a really interesting thing, to have a national program
for the individual congressmen to run on, and you know, even
now, when I look back on it, at least it was a battle
of ideas, then. And you look at these guys now
in Washington and you don’t see that happening
in a certain sense. And what it really means
to me, though, is that what made it successful
for, not just for Kennedy, but for the Republicans
who joined with him, producing these bills that have
now stood the test of time, was experience. And when I look at the current
election, with outsiders now, especially
in the Republican Party, having bested lots of senators
who’ve been there for a long period of time, it’s a worrisome thing
that we’re turning our backs, or it seems to be according
to the polls, on people who’ve
have experience, because there’s something still,
to me, noble about being a politician. The idea that these people
who worked then were able to compromise,
were able to work with each other, all these
funny deals that they made. They understood compromise
as the core of the system, and they should be honored
for it. And I worry now whether
we’re creating a whole bunch of young people who look
at Washington and think, “Do I really want to be one
of those guys who can’t get along with each other,
who can’t get anything done?” Where are the heroes,
in a certain sense?>>OLIPHANT: I want to follow
that up with–>>GOODWIN: That becomes part of
this outsider mentality we have. They’re gonna do better than
these guys, they, whoever they.>>If I could, I’d like
to follow that up with Trish in just a second, but first,
Vicki, if I might, Senator Kennedy had to play
some defense in 1995, because there was a torrent
of proposals from the new majority in both
the House and the Senate, on both the tax side
and the domestic programs side, the regulatory side. And in order to unite his…
the members of his own party, he also had to enlist a
president, his name was Clinton, who was being tugged
in different directions, even more so than the senator
was at that meeting, the preceding Labor Day. Can you give us a feel
for the senator’s relationship with Clinton, President Clinton,
and how it evolved during 1995?>>I think he had
a very good relationship with President Clinton. President Clinton
had been very helpful during Teddy’s campaign in ’94, both President and Mrs. Clinton
were very supportive. They campaigned for him,
they did events for him, and the president would… had a different kind
of time clock than Teddy. You know, Teddy didn’t stay up
that late at night, and the President would call
sometimes at midnight and just sort of want to chat, and he’d wake, and you know,
like, “Senator, the president is on the phone,”
and Teddy would be sound asleep, like, “The President
is on the phone?” Teddy tended to be an early
riser, you know, so he would… So but he always… but he understood
that it was very helpful with President Clinton
to be the last person who had a chance to talk to him,
because President Clinton was a person who accepted a
lot of different points of view, as Teddy understood it. So he wanted to get a chance
to have his point of view heard. So during the Christmas
vacations, and you’ll know this to be true, he thought it was
always helpful to try to get work done during that time
and to find time to be able to, before going in in January
for the January term, to be able to go in and kind of
lay down a marker, if you will. Have that conversation
with the president and try to get some commitments.>>Did there come a time
in the winter or in the spring, when the senator became aware
that there was a guy working surreptitiously
for President Clinton, whom a lot of people up here
in Massachusetts know all about, named Dick Morris? And that he had been retained to
offer a different perspective?>>Oh, I’m sure. (laughter)>>When did you become aware?>>I don’t recall. But you know, things like that
didn’t particularly impact Teddy,
to be quite honest. So, President Clinton’s getting
advice from a conservative guy. I don’t think that…
that’s not the sort of thing that would keep Teddy, you know,
deeply troubled, he just knew he wanted
to get in and get his point of view in
as well.>>Were there some issues,
David, that would come up, where you weren’t sure
where the White House was? I’m thinking, in the spring,
there’s a moment in the spring, and Nick is responsible
for my knowing about it… This story didn’t unfold
with one cataclysmic government shutdown in November
of that year, it built. It was a drama
that built slowly. And in the spring, I remember, there was some early efforts
to gut social programs. Kind of a preliminary version,
and that Senator Kennedy, as Nick told it to me,
and I’m sure he was the agent who arranged this, but the
senator went around the Senate. It was a bill–
I’m gonna ask you to explain what recisions are
in a second, David– but he had Nick go around the
Senate and collect 40-plus names on a letter to the president,
saying “Veto this bill, and we’ll sustain you.” And it was the first time
it was clear that there was a way to get some control
of the floor.>>Yeah, well, a recision bill means you take back
a previously appropriated funds, and when the Republicans came in
they had this whole broad program to cut and slash
back the whole domestic, you know, across the
whole domestic realm of policy, including
the entitlement programs, but they wanted
to do something right away, and so the first thing
they tried to do was to propose a major recision, pullback
of funds that had already been appropriated for a number
of domestic programs. The senator decided that this
was a good place to begin to– besides the fact that we needed
to keep it from happening, this was a good place
to lay down a marker and begin to rally the Democrats
and let the public know what was really at stake
in this Gingrich revolution. ‘Cause the public really didn’t
have any sense of what it was that the Republicans intended. Other than that they were
for change and the public was sort of for change
at that point. So he picked education
as the key issue to rally people around,
and there was a long, sustained work within the caucus to get a unified
Democratic position, and then when the recision bill
finally passed after making adjustments,
it was still not… Kennedy, on the Senate floor, was able
to get a lot of money added back for education,
because he’d managed to get enough
Republican support. Dole knew he was gonna
lose a vote, and so they reached
a compromise, and they added back, I think,
$800 million. Question was then,
what the president would do. And there had been such
a strong vote in the House, including many Democrats
voting for it, the president was
rightly concerned, he didn’t want to have to veto
it and have it overridden. That would be a terrible sign
of weakness and a bad omen for the rest of what
the Democrats were gonna do. So, the senator rounded up
enough pledges from Democrats to assure the president that if he vetoed the bill over
education, the Democrats would stick
with him and his veto wouldn’t be overridden,
and that was, I think in a way, the beginning of the turning
of the tide, although it was a continuing
struggle throughout, because the president
legitimately was in a difficult position
trying to… you know, any president wants
to accomplish something. Did he have to work with these
people to get anything done?>>I think Nick’s point was that at least you could
demonstrate to him that if you plant the flag, there’s enough support
so you can prevail.>>Exactly.>>So please plant the flag
some more, was sort of the way it worked. Mike… I don’t want to ask you
to do too much early, but the minimum wage. Kennedy had engineered
two previous increases in the minimum wage, and as David was explaining,
they had come to the judgment that a third was called
for after so many years. And in terms of legislating,
how did Kennedy go about prevailing as a minority
on an issue so associated in the public minds
with Democrats?>>I think the minimum wage
is one of those fairly simple concepts
that people get, so it’s not like a massive
health reform bill where they’re all
the intricacies of the American
healthcare system on display. It’s increasing the minimum wage
for poor workers, that’s it. So that message really gets
through to audiences around the country. One thing that we did, in the
increase in the minimum wage, I think it was in 2004,
was we worked in the states with ballot initiatives,
so that just to demonstrate to the Congress, and often
in Republican dominated states, that the minimum wage was
popular even in those states, and then bring it back
to Washington for the vote. I think on the minimum wage,
it also demonstrates, Senator Kennedy was famous for
not saying it’s all or nothing, ’cause then you get nothing. But willing to take a half
a loaf or a quarter of a loaf. So we never got the wage
increase we really wanted. We always had to bargain
even among Democrats on what the wage level would be for this next increase,
but he would… once the bill passed,
after all of that work, he would want to come back
the very next day and introduce the next
minimum wage bill, and he would. And it would irritate
all the Democrats ’cause they wanted time
to take a victory lap on this last increase,
but he’s saying no, we’re gonna keep going.>>Trish, you may have heard…
by the way, if any of you want to start
thinking of really sharp, penetrating questions
to shout at us, please do, and in a couple of minutes,
I’m going to turn to you. Someone will give you
a microphone, so please start conspiring now. But Trish, off Senator Hatch’s
experience in the Senate, he must have been able
to explain to his colleagues better than most,
how Senator Kennedy operated, and what it was like
to be a conservative Republican in the same Senate with him. But I was wondering
what his perspective was a year or so before
they would join in this historic alliance
on children’s health? You know, there’s a famous
quote, I think it was Dick Armey who said this,
right in this period, warning his fellow colleagues
about having anything to do with this maniac. That, you know,
it’s always the same. He’ll make some
wild liberal proposal and he’ll hoodwink
some Republican into being the co-sponsor, and
then the next thing you know, you’re negotiating
from the position of weakness and he sort of gets half a loaf and then he’s back
the next day with more. Don’t do it! (laughter)>>First of all,
Senator Kennedy needed no explanation
to Republican senators. They understood Senator Kennedy. I think the leadership
was always worried that he would pick off one of us to do some big social
agenda program. Child care, for example. Hatch and Kennedy had a long
history of working together on bipartisan legislation
and public health with the Ryan White AIDS Bills,
the Orphan Drug Act, the Organ Transplant Act. So, I mean, that was…
I don’t think… He’d been in the majority
and he’d been in the minority, so for Senator Hatch it was not
an unusual thing to be back in the majority.>>Right, so and here and let
me see if Vicki agrees, but… Senator Hatch looked
at Senator Kennedy and he saw another senator,
a colleague, before he saw a Democrat
and an enemy?>>What you have to understand
is that Senator Hatch was elected in 1976
from a very conservative state, and one of the reasons he wanted
to come to Washington was to fight Ted Kennedy because
he had this liberal agenda that needed to be negated. And when Reagan was elected
and Senator Hatch became chairman
of the labor committee, he quickly learned that
because there were two very liberal Republicans,
Weicker and Stafford, as senior on the committee,
that if Senator Hatch didn’t make a deal
with Senator Kennedy, then Weicker and Stafford
would vote with them, and he as chairman would lose
in his own committee every time. So that really forged
his method of operating with Senator Kennedy and
arguably in the whole Senate.>>So to you… Senator Kennedy
looks across the aisle and he sees a conservative
Republican, Orrin Hatch, and unlike some of the words
that were used in a recent Democratic
presidential debate even, he doesn’t see an enemy. How does he look at…?>>Teddy said, again,
said to me many times, he said, he never doubted
anybody’s patriotism, he didn’t doubt their character,
he just believed that they had a different way of getting
to a point than he did. He said this, he said, this,
Senator So-and-so, loves our country as much
as we do, we just have a different way
of getting there, and he always believed
if you listen to what someone had to say and found
an opportunity to be with them… (inaudible) And you know, out of that
dinner, more times than not they’d leave with something
having been done, they’d find some common ground. Just one little thing
that they could agree on, and he believed if you took
the time to get to know someone, that you could find something
you could agree on and advance the whole.>>Doris, when you look
at various relationships, not just this one which you know
an awful lot about, but down through history, what is the essence
of a successful relationship, either between
or among political leaders? Is there any common thread?>>I think there is, I mean,
I was just thinking as Vicki was talking that what LBJ was
able to do with Senator Dirksen is very similar to what
we’re talking about now. He understood that Dirksen was a
Republican, was a conservative, but he needed Dirksen
to help break the filibuster on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So he had to believe that
Dirksen had his own patriotism. He played on that with Dirksen. He goes to him, and you know,
first of all, he offers him everything
under the sun, you know, you want public works projects,
you want a pardon, you want jails, whatever
you want, they could do that. The whole state of Illinois
was gonna be sunk in all the largesse
that he was gonna give him. But then finally, you know and
he calls him up in the morning, and he calls him
in the middle of the night, just when you’re talking
about President Clinton calling up Teddy at midnight. I mean, Lyndon Johnson
would call them up at two in the morning,
and this one senator, he said, “I hope I didn’t wake you up,”
and the senator said, “No, I was just lying here
hoping my president would call.” (laughter) But anyway,
when he goes to Dirksen, and I think that’s what you’re
seeing here with Senator Kennedy and Hatch and some
of the other Republicans, Kassebaum, he understands that
Dirksen wants to be remembered, too, for having done
something important. So he may exaggerate
a little bit, he said, “Everett, if you come with me
on this bill and you bring “some Republicans to break
the Democratic filibuster, “200 years from now,
school children will know only two names: Abraham Lincoln
and Everett Dirksen.” (laughter) How can Dirksen resist? So I think the key thing
is what Vicki was saying. You have to understand
that they are there, and there used to be
a greater sense, I think, in the Congress and the Senate,
when they were passing joint legislation,
that they were doing something that they could be proud
to tell their children and their grandchildren,
“I was in that Congress.” Now I understand that sometimes
Republicans will be proud for defeating something
that they believe is wrong, too, but when you can do something
that you know has improved the lives of children
as Chip did, how incredible that feels
when you look out and you know that
it’s made a difference. I fear that that’s what’s
not happening now, that it requires seeing
the people across the aisle as fellow colleagues rather
than as partisan enemies, just as Vicki said. And everything
about our media today encourages them
to become enemies. The cable networks
that have only one side on versus the other side,
the fact that the debates, they like it most
when you zing somebody. Now even in your own party, not
just zinging the other person. And the special interests
that are required when you need to raise the money to run
for election are often the more extremists,
so the moderate compromisers get crushed out of that process. So the process itself is making
it less likely to have this extraordinary moment
we’re talking about in 1994 and obviously in the ’60s
as well.>>Which leads me
to my last question… Oh, I’m sorry, Michael.>>One other dimension of that
I think that was… Senator Kennedy was a master of, was not only finding common
ground with someone on an issue, but finding
common ground personally. And getting to know the person. An example that always blows
people’s minds is on disability, where Congressman Pete Sessions, one of the most conservative
members of the Congress even to this day, has a child
with Down’s Syndrome. So they worked together
on legislation that enabled health coverage for
families with disabled children. That’s probably the only issue
they could have found common ground on, but he found
that personal connection with Congressman Sessions
and it resulted in a good law.>>Which leads me
to my last question before I go up there
for questions that I assume are ready to be fired. Trish, how– it’s simply this– How did Nick and Kennedy
get together with Senator Hatch and you to do the Children’s
Health Insurance program? How does something like this
happen from your perspective?>>One thing I think we haven’t
talked too much about today is the level of friendship
between the two senators also extended to the staff. And so today, Nick and Jenny
and Michael and David, Bruce, Brian, Kerry,
we’re all still friends. We remain friends and we know
each other and we know how to play each other,
how to not play each other. What we care about,
what we don’t care about. So that’s an important part
of the discussion. To be fair,
when Senator Kennedy, as is well explained
in the book, approached a number
of Republican senators, and he approached Senator Hatch
and we were a bit worried in the Hatch world
that he might be led into territory
he shouldn’t go into. (laughter)
>>That’s very diplomatic!>>By Senator Kennedy,
and there’s a passage in the book about,
I remember so well, when we raised these concerns
with Senator Hatch, and to be fair, Bruce Artim
was the only one on the staff who was very gung ho about doing
this bill with Senator Kennedy. Senator Hatch turned to us
and he said, “You don’t know what it’s like
to grow up a poor child. Find a way to do this right,
but I want to do this.”>>So it’s personal first.>>That’s how we insisted
on making it a block grant, a limited program,
so we could argue that it wasn’t an entitlement,
and all those things the book explains so well
about the letters back and forth, the singing. Nick’s singing to Senator Hatch, all of that sort of flowed
from that friendship.>>By the way, she’s neglecting
one very important part of the historical narrative,
and that was Nick’s approach to Trish, and he used
“Annie Get Your Gun” and he actually did
the following.>>Twice I have
to be embarrassed.>>♪ The girl that I marry
will have to be ♪ ♪ As soft and as pink
as a nursery. ♪ (laughter) ♪ The girl I call my own
will wear satins and laces ♪ ♪ And smell of cologne. ♪ (applause) That, Doris,
that’s the kind of history a dummy like me can understand. Now we need questions! So there are microphones all
over up there– ask! If not, I’ll let
the big shots down here. (laughter) Right there in the center. And I’m gonna try to have
one person answer your question so that
we have time for as many questions
as possible.>>I’m wondering if those of you
who’ve seen the book can just give us
a tweet about the most important point the book
makes that would help Washington work
better.>>Can I direct that at Trish, because, because, because– she’s part of the power
structure now in her own way. She has her own company, but
let’s let you tackle that one.>>Could I first
just say one thing? I learned this from
the presidential debates, that you’re supposed to just
talk about whatever you want…? (laughter) (applause) Thank you.>>Imagine if Kennedy and Hatch
had talked like that.>>Thank you for the song. I have to say, Nick,
you did it so much better. (laughter) Bruce is fond of saying
that when Nick sang Senator Hatch’s song,
“Freedom’s Light” to Senator Hatch,
which resulted in $24 billion for children’s health,
he out-grossed the Stones, U2, or anyone else in world history. I think that the big lesson
is that I’m kind of jaded about the current Congress
because I think, and Doris can talk about this
much more eloquently, but the 24-hour news cycle,
the partisan cable shows, the Tea Party,
armchair legislators. I mean, there was something
to be said for the voters not knowing how sausage is made. There are reportedly 50 members
of Congress in the House who live in their offices. So they don’t
build the friendships that Senator Hatch
and Senator Kennedy had. Their staffs don’t build
the friendships that we all had. And I think they’re there
for a very different reason. They’re there for change,
and change is good, but with all these– the House is turning over
much more frequently. The Senate is. With everyone trying change,
change, change, there’s not the focused agenda
that Senator Kennedy was famous for
and so successful for.>>Senator Hatch, too.>>Yes, but we’re talking
about Senator Kennedy…>>More, more, more,
I can’t see so good, I’m old. Do I see a hand? Lefthand side, in the back row. You do, it’s coming. (laughter) The phrase we used to have is
the well-oiled Kennedy machine.>>I guess I would like to bring
the discussion somewhat up to the present, because I think
there’s so much to learn from the way
that Senator Kennedy handled his relations to, you know,
all of us. And I can’t help but want
to believe that he would be in favor of the Family Leave Act
being extended and expanded. And I try to wonder and figure
out how would he approach somebody like Paul Ryan
in the Senate. Others of Ryan’s ilk,
sorry for that term, but how would he approach
somebody who, as you say, is not really part
of the climate used to be? He’s home on weekends,
he’s not interested in forging these kinds of relationships.>>Don’t be so sure. David, that’s
in your wheelhouse.>>Well, I think it’s,
as we describe in the book, Senator Kennedy thought the way
you approach every issue is there’s a little bit
of a formula. First you master the substance,
then you take on the politics, and then there’s
the public relations side. And the politics has both
an inside game which involves getting
your colleagues energized and reaching across the aisle
if you can to find a Republican partner,
is sort of the first part. The second part is mobilizing
interest groups that care about it,
both because they’re a way of communicating
with the public and because other members
of Congress listen to them. And the third one
is the public relations, because if you can’t keep…
there’s so much competing for attention in Washington
and so many counter-pressures, particularly in these Congress,
about doing things, you need a sense of
there’s a real public outcry and that it’s very salient
to the public to get it up. On this one, I think he would
go around to as many Republican senators
as he thought might have an interest in the issue
and see if there was a way to find a common ground,
some kind of a compromise that they could agree on that
would move the issue forward. And if he couldn’t do that,
he would pursue it as a Democratic initiative
as he did with the minimum wage. He would try and do events,
he’d reach out to the public, he’d unify his colleagues,
he’d try and get the majority leader–
the minority leader to make it one of the top bills
going into the Congress. He’d reach out to the president
to ask him to talk about it. He would offer it
as an amendment to any piece of legislation going forward.>>Every piece, right? In 1996, every piece
of legislature.>>Force votes and those votes
would be very uncomfortable, because like the minimum wage,
I think this is an extraordinarily popular issue
with the public.>>Trish, a follow-up: Is the problem that there
is no Senator Kennedy, or that it’s hard for somebody
like Senator Hatch to be the Senator Hatch
of the mid-1990s?>>It’s hard for anyone
to be the leader that they were I think in the mid-1990s
with this Congress. Another thing is happened
is that more than half of the senators came from
the House, were House members, so this more deliberative body
with this check and balance on the more populist House
is changing somewhat. They want to change their rules
so they can be more reactive, and I think that makes
it harder to get things done.>>Gotcha. More! Next to the last. Do I see a hand? Yes, please.>>One of the difficulties today
is that when you look at who was in the House
and Senate in the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s perhaps, many of them had been
in war together. They’d been in World War II,
they’d been in the Korean War. They knew what it was like
to have a common mission that you worked across
party class lines. And now, it was a huge
percentage of the Congress and Senate in those days,
now it’s 1% in the Congress because we no longer
have the draft, because the military
has a different status in our society, as honored
as it is in its own right. And so I think that experience
of having worked together and learning how
to go across party lines, and learning how to care
about the end result is less likely to be
in the people that are being elected right now
to Congress.>>But you know, Vicki,
before I call on the person in the rear there,
I can almost hear Senator Kennedy
pointing his finger at this. “You’re all negative,
you’re all down in the dumps, “you sour-pusses! “There’s gonna be a meeting
at my house in three days, and we’re gonna have an agenda
by Monday and etcetera,” and all of a sudden, Senator Hatch is writing songs
again and Nick is singing them. He would be a little bit upset
at the gloom, wouldn’t he?>>Well, I think, you know,
I have such a hard time saying what he would think, to be
honest, but yes, I think…>>He tended not to like gloom.>>He was not a gloomy person, he was an optimist,
absolute optimist. He didn’t get down in the dumps
and he was always looking for the next opportunity. Things didn’t… legislative
defeat didn’t get him down. It was always, okay,
so how do we build on it, how do we move forward. He was always looking
for the next chance. I was thinking about
the question about family leave. I think he would have been
looking for a person who had a family member
who had unpaid family leave and it had impacted them. Somebody whose daughter or
daughter-in-law had a problem, or somebody was looking,
was caring for a family member and was maybe unable to do that. I mean he would be looking
for some touchstone, that he could find that he could
connect with that person. I mean that’s… and then he would try
to bring them into the fold. That’s the sort of thing that
he would always be looking for. But it goes back to the answer that Trish gave earlier
to the question up here. What is a tweet takeaway
from the book? You have to talk to each other! You have to know each other. You have to be with each other. So I think that what he would
be most concerned about is that people don’t
know each other. That they’re not spending
that time with each other, that they’re not doing that
face-to-face and meeting and knowing each other and understanding what’s
happening in each other’s lives, because unless you’re talking
to each other, you don’t ever find
that common ground.>>Empathy– just to follow up
on what you’re saying, one of the most important
resources, I think, in a democratic system
is empathy. The ability to see what other
people are thinking and feeling, to understand
their point of view. And without that, the system
has a difficult time, and I think that’s what we have
to figure out is how do we, in this crazy world where people
are so fragmented in terms of their attention
and not spending time with one another one on one. I mean, it’s a bigger problem
than the Congress. It’s the country,
the way we live now to get, how do we make sure
that the things that provide the most emotional sustenance,
which are human connections, are continued, and that’s what
I think he’d be arguing for.>>I have it– I find it hard
to imagine Senator Kennedy accepting that just
because Paul Ryan gets on a plane and goes back
to Jamesville, Wisconsin, every Friday that
that’s an obstacle. I don’t know how many…
Senator Kennedy was in Jamesville, Wisconsin,
a few times himself from 1960 forward,
and I just imagine him going there if that’s
what it takes. Now, the thing I hate
about this duty is they always make me be
the evil person who stops it. And so this is going to be
our last question, but when we’re done discussing
it, I have a treat for you, as well as a request of you. Sir.>>(inaudible) another former
Hatch staffer… But I was able to visit
with Nick yesterday, and as is typical,
Nick gave me an assignment. He communicates with his
drumstick and the alphabet and he spells out
“read chapter seven,” so I got the book and I studied
last night and when Nick tells you to read something,
you do it. And it’s also typical
that the Kennedys are controlling the paper. (inaudible) And so dutifully I read chapter
seven, which is entitled, “Orrin Hatch,” you’ve heard
a lot about that today, so I’m gonna tell you,
we give David fair warning, there’s a former Kennedy staffer
named Jim Flug, who would bring a purple
patterned satchel to the hearings
at the Judiciary Committee. And in this satchel he would
have a softball, and if he thought that the
senator’s question was too easy, he would roll the softball… (inaudible) So, Dave, I’m gonna give you
a softball. (laughter)>>He deserves one.>>I hope it won’t be seen
to be a curve ball. I’ve not read the whole book,
but I do like the way it has really shown that
there’s a lot of hard work… The comments were very
important, they were valuable. There was a… somebody
mentioned there’s a nobility about really trying to make
these tough trade-offs… (inaudible) But in doing all that, there was
a certain amount of joy that we see, so there was style and I think Senator Kennedy
really brought that together. And so, and one of the things
I’m enjoying about the book, Senator Leahy has a saying,
“A senator is nothing more than a constitutional impediment
to staff.” (laughter) And I think it’s showing
sort of the byplay with the limits of what
the staff can do but that the elected member
does. I know that Senator Kirk
has played both roles. I suspect it’s probably somewhat
different when you’re the person voting,
and we’re all mindful of that. So the last thing
I’m going to say in now using the Kennedy paper
and doing my assignments, I would ask David
if he would object if anybody ever used this book
as part of backup documentation. If somebody ever thought
to nominate Senator Hatch for the JFK Profile in Courage
Award, would it be possible for the Kennedy-generated book
to be used in favor of Senator Hatch? (applause)>>Hey, stay tuned, pal. Doris, I’d like to throw the
spirit of that question to you for a second. It seems to me that until the
20th century, we didn’t really pay much attention to advisors
or people that are called aides. The words really fail to
describe something like Nick Littlefield
and Edward Kennedy, but what… do you have
a sense, first of all, of the modern relationship
of what’s called staff and what’s called principals? And can you put Nick
in a historical context while he’s watching? (laughing)>>No, you know, I think
the wonderful thing about a career that Nick had in
the Senate, as indeed David had, you know, both of them could
have gone into private life and made a hell of a lot
more money, and they committed themselves
to a position without the same benefits that
you get from being the actual politician. You are behind the scenes,
but you know that every day when you go in there and you
feel that in your book– you loved what you were doing. Waking up in the morning, couldn’t wait to get there
with your colleagues. You’re working in
a collaborative way on things that are really
important. And when people make that choice
in their careers, it should be honored,
and I think, I mean, You could argue that in some
ways in the 19th century when they had just one person
on their staff, they had to deal
with each other more. Now the staffs are so huge I’ve
heard one congressman say, he walks down the halls and he
doesn’t even know who’s the other congressman versus who the other
staff people are. So that’s just part of
bureaucracy and modern life, but I think the choice, a career
choice that people make to spend a decade or more as
Nick did, and as you did, in that place, knowing that you
are making things happen, working together with a person
that you felt loyal to, with other people that you got
to know, it is so to be honored, and I think we honor that
tonight.>>Just as a matter of
arithmetic, you could almost make the point that the three
people here on the panel other than you and Vicki and me, have had an impact on more
American lives than most of the presidents
in the 19th century did. (applause) Now! Now you get a treat
and a challenge. I wouldn’t dream of closing
a program on one of the people I admire almost more than any other
person in the world, so I am going to turn to one
person who has kindly consented to perform that task
after which we will be done, but she does have something she
wants to ask of you, too. So Vicki, it’s all yours.>>Thank you so much, and thanks
to all of you. And before I do close the
program, I want to start off by thanking you all for being
here and invite you to a reception, everyone
to a reception, after the event closes, and
to say that there will be a book signing, and next to the place where
the books will be signed, there’ll be a chance for each
of you, should you wish, to say something. There’ll be someone filming
and you’ll be able to give a personal message to Nick that
he’ll be able to watch and keep if you’d like to say something
personal to him. And I hope you all will. It would be very special. Now Nick, this is for you. You are an extraordinary
and special friend, but the kind of friend you were
to Teddy is, well, to use Teddy’s word,
it was just chemical. And when the two of you got
together, it was really alchemy. And I look at those,
that nearly decade, that you worked together, and
something unbelievable happened. The history books will be
written and we’ll all get to see it in black and white, but something remarkable
happened to benefit the American people, and it was,
I think, a combination of your boundless optimism,
your brilliance, your keen sense of strategy,
your doggedness, your willingness to let Teddy
tease you and challenge you, but something happened when the
two of you worked together that is like no other period
in history. And I have this here and I
actually have my glasses because I want to read
just a little of the acts that were passed during
that period of time. Kassebaum-Kennedy Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Hatch-Kennedy Children’s Health
Insurance Act. National Institutes of Health
Revitalization Act. Agency for Healthcare Policy and
Research Reauthorization Act. Food and Drug Administration
Modernization Act. Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Comprehensive Medical Device
Improvement Act. Ryan White AIDS Care Act. Higher Education and Student
Loan Reform Acts, 1992 and ’93. Elementary and Secondary
Education Reauthorization Act. Fair Labor Standard Acts, amendments increasingly the
minimum wage in ’89 and ’96. Childcare Block Grant. Family and Medical Leave Act. Americans with Disabilities Act,
and the list goes on. This is in Republican and
Democratic presidents, Republican and Democratic
Senates. It’s incredible what you
and Teddy did together. Nick, we owe you a debt
of gratitude. You are a remarkable man, and this place, this
Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, would not be the place
that it is without you as a board member
and as a friend. I remember you and Jenny,
Teddy and I, sitting at a café in Boston
and we were going and showing what this was gonna look like
with salt and pepper shakers. Jenny, do you remember? Salt and pepper shakers
and forks and knives, having just met
with the architect, talking about what this
institute was going to look like in comparison
to the JFK Library. You were there
from the beginning. Teddy shared with you his vision
for what this place could be, and you never looked back, helping with Lee
from the very beginning, running with this idea. You were, in your enthusiasm
and optimism, helping to raise funds. You figured, why ask for
a million, ask for five, and you’d get it! I mean, it was incredible. You have been remarkable. We would not have this institute
without you, Nick. I love you madly, I thank you, we all owe you for everything
that you’ve done. This book is a triumph. It’s a gift to history. You’ve shown like no one
could ever show– God bless you, too, David– what the Senate is when the
Senate is at its best. It’s a true gift to all of us, it’s a gift, as I say,
to history. And we all want to show you
right now how much we love you, so will everybody stand? (applause) (cheering and applause) (applause continues)>>Thank you very, very much. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *