Wisdom of Senator Russell Long

January, 2018

Washington -- Last evening, as January 19th turned to January 20th and the federal govenment shut down, I watched U.S. Senate live proceedings via a newspaper's internet feed. (Long ago, like many Americans, I cut the cable and do not watch cable-provided television.)

It was a sorry spectacle to see both the majority and minority leaders, after the failure of the vote to keep the government open, read pre-written speeches blaming the other side. I'm sure the speeches will be rebroadcast near and far, but they are counterproductive to responsible government.

Back when, I worked in the Senate. Robert Byrd was majority leader; Howard Baker was minority leader. They did not read speeches for the TV cameras, because the Senate was not televised. The Senate got its work done. Byrd and Baker would not have countenanced last evening's spectacle.

Senator Russell Long was among those who said that bringing television coverage into the Senate would destroy the institution, because Senators would be making speeches for the cameras, not doing their work. His views can still be seen in an interview that is worth watching, available via this link.

Senator Long cared about the institution. He remains the only senator whose father and mother were also senators, Huey Long and Rose Long.

If the Senate remains televised, it needs rules governing pre-drafted speeches.