The Imperial Congress

An impetuous and sometimes corrupt Congress has often hamstrung the efforts of the president since the earliest days of the Republic

On a little-remarked, steamy day in late June 1973, a revolution took place in Washington, D.C., one that would transfer far more power and wealth than did the revolt against King George III in 1776. On the 29th, a sweaty, angry majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate defied the president of the United States and voted to end armed American involvement in Vietnam. Read more »

Why Do We Say That?

“Filibuster”

The Senate tactic known as a filibuster has been much in the news lately. Democrats used the filibuster to stall votes on the nominations of federal appeals court judges and John R.Read more »

The Carpetbaggers

As Hillary Clinton campaigns for a New York Senate seat, she’d do well to study the career of another effective outsider

New Yorkers knew they were in for a long, hot summer this year when Hillary Rodham Clinton made an early political foray into their state and was greeted by demonstrators whom the state GOP had urged to dress up as blackflies. One of Mrs. Clinton’s aides had made the mistake of remarking that the First Couple would not be vacationing in the Adirondacks because of the flies.Read more »

Sometimes Our Job Is To Say No

The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explains why it has always frustrated Presidents—and why it doesn’t have to

I have occasionally been referred to as “Senator No,” and I’m proud of the title. But when it comes to saying no, I’m not even in the same ballpark with the first North Carolinian to serve as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nathaniel Ma¡on. A Revolutionary War veteran and native of Warrenton, Senator Macon was chairman between 1825 and 1829. He was a fierce opponent of any and all measures to expand the power of the new federal government. Read more »

The British Vew

The recent British ambassador to Washington takes a generous-spirited but clear-eyed look at the document that, as he points out, owes its existence to King George III

The guest at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., leaves his car and is ushered through a comparatively modest, low-ceilinged entrance hall. The architect, Edwin Lutyens, wished to surprise him, for the entrance hall opens up into a magnificent double staircase that mounts toward the still more opulent reception rooms above, the central feature of which is a sixty-six-yard-long corridor. It is Lutyens’s equivalent of Beethoven’s transition to the finale of his C Minor Symphony. “Lovely corridors,” said a distinguished predecessor of mine, before my wife and I came.Read more »

A Few Parchment Pages Two Hundred Years Later

The framers of the Constitution were proud of what they had done but might be astonished that their words still carry so much weight. A distinguished scholar tells us how the great charter has survived and flourished.

The American Constitution has functioned and endured longer than any other written constitution of the modern era. It imbues the nation with energy to act while restraining its agents from acting improperly. It safeguards our liberties and establishes a government of laws, not of men and women. Above all, the Constitution is the mortar that binds the fifty-state edifice under the concept of federalism; it is the symbol that unifies nearly 250 million people of different origins, races, and religions into a single nation. Read more »

A True Capacity For Governance’

Despite his feeling that “we are beginning to lose the memory of what a restrained and civil society can be like,” the senior senator from New York—a lifelong student of history—remains an optimist about our system of government and our extraordinary resilience as a people

My father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and is now, at fifty-nine, the senior senator from his home state. He began his education in New York’s public schools, the Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem and City College of New York. After serving in the Navy, he received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in 1948 and his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He began his career in government as an aide to New York’s governor Averell Harriman from 1955 to 1958.Read more »

Big Grizzly

Gargantuan, gross, and cynical, the patrician boss Boies Penrose descended from aristocracy to dominate Pennsylvania Republican politics for thirty years

The history of politics is a history of words. “Boss” is as American as “Santa Claus,” both words being Dutch in origin. “Boss,” wrote the English captain Thomas Hamilton, was a peculiar Americanism, a substitute for “master.” Hamilton’s book, Men and Manners in America , was published in 1831, roughly coincident with the rise of machine politics in the United States. It was during the 1830’s, too, that “big” became a favorite Americanism, an adjective suggesting quality as well as quantity; power and prestige, not merely size.Read more »

Congress

 

In recent years the Congress of the United States has seemed to be the least vital element in the federal system. It has stood well back in the shadow of the Presidency and the Supreme Court, apparently without initiative or nerve, content to follow rather than lead. Yet it possesses extraordinary powers, which must be vigorously applied if the system of checks and balances on which this nation’s government is based is to be effectively maintained.

 

Read more »