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The “down” Years 1972-74
A Senator’s View
August 1976 | Volume 27, Issue 5
Monday the Defense Appropriation bill went through just about as submitted and will now be in conference with the House. Why does almost nobody vote against the Defense Appropriation bill, when they know that it could well be sheared down, saving tax money without materially injuring our defense establishment or the security of the nation? The answer is that we don’t know enough about the details of it or where it could be best reduced. Another reason is that so many of the giant corporations … look to the United States government to keep them in business and keep them employing thousands of men and women, almost all of whom are members of labor organizations. The so-called defense corporations and the labor unions exert tremendous power on the Congress. In general the corporations provide the cash contributions for political campaigns, while the principal asset of the unions is the number of votes they can deliver to successful candidates who will cooperate with them after election. It all seems like an enormous waste of money, and it savors of dishonest politics to a great degree, but, paradoxically, out of this system has been developed the greatest and most powerful nation on earth and one in which the individual and the family live at about the highest level of any people on earth.
On Friday I went on the Senate floor just as a bill had been called up which would have provided a loan of twenty million dollars to the Railway Express Agency, which is heavily in debt and to all appearances has not been too well managed. This bill … would not have required any reduction in dividends to stockholders or in salaries to company officials. … I hastily objected to action on the bill at the time and was soon supported by nearly every other member of the Senate present, probably eight or ten in all.
It is my opinion that companies like this should go through bankruptcy, just as smaller business people have to do when their debts become excessive. Further than that, I don’t believe that any corporations should be able to call upon the United States Treasury to bail them out of the abyss through the kindness of members of Congress, to whom they in turn may have been very generous during past political campaigns. …
The election proved the polls to be accurate, for this time at least. President Nixon carried forty-nine states. …
When the returns showed that the Republicans had captured four contested seats for the Senate—Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and New Mexico—I began to have qualms, since I would be in line for the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and frankly I was not thirsting for the job. When later returns came in, however, and the Republicans had lost Kentucky, Delaware, Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado, and Maine, my qualms went away, and I had very sincere regrets that we had a net loss of two in the Senate.
We may call it a week of shock, dismay, and disbelief.
When it was announced on Monday that President Nixon had ordered a renewal of the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor in the heaviest American air attacks of the war, the nation was stunned. … What has happened to the man we elected as our President on November 7? Why did he lead us to believe that a peace settlement was at most only a few weeks away? Is he now determined to win a military victory to show the world that we are the strongest nation on earth?
As one who supported Richard Nixon for a second term in the White House, and as one who had freely predicted that our military involvement in Indochina would be over before Christmas, I find these questions to be extremely embarrassing.
One reason I am not able to answer questions with any degree of certainty is that I am not informed of the plans of our government or of what is really going on in the field of military operations. Occasionally when I talk with President Nixon … he gives me information which I believe is factual. As for Mr. Kissinger and certain other aides, however, I might as well be on another planet. I have received far more information from top officials and representatives of other countries than from my own.
Tuesday morning Harry Truman died. It was not unexpected, but I hate to see him leave. … His old friends and enemies alike paid him glowing tributes. Frankly, I don’t like eulogies, especially on the Senate floor. Many are inspired by sheer hypocrisy or personal ambition. … I am more than glad that Mrs. Truman insisted on a private funeral. … A public funeral would have been attended by dozens of hypocritical publicity-seekers trying to show what friends they were of the late President and trying to get photographed in the most advantageous position.