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From our archives: Congress was held in low esteem in 1963

What we thought: 50 years ago

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorial appeared in the Telegraph on April 25, 1963.

1963 Congress;

heroes needed

Not much doubt exists that Congress generally is held in fairly low esteem today. The question is why.

A considerable group argues that Congress needs major reform of both its structure and functions to equip it for the faster pace of late-20th century change.

The many reform proposals are a subject for separate discussion. But even the surface evidence of cumbersome, repetitive, outmoded [practices indicates some semblance] of reform does indeed seem in order.

It is also contended that Congress has a “bad image” because its political balance is so close as to produce stalemate rather than vigorous action.

This, too, is evidently true. Even quite moderate legislative proposals can be blocked by a conservative coalition that has existed, in one form or another, continuously since 1939. Right now the combine contains more Republicans and somewhat fewer southern Democrats than it did two years ago.

But since this particular condition is not new, and since, in any event, it is probably reasonably reflective of divisions within the nation itself, the political stalemate hardly seems the best explanation for the decline in congressional prestige.

A third suggestion is that Congress today simply does not have the forceful, colorful leadership it requires to play a more vital role in national affairs.

In business, there is a saying that a company, whatever its status and reputation, is only as good as the men who make it up. This would appear to hold for Congress, for an executive agency of government, or for practically anything you choose to name.

The stirring figures can’t be found on Capitol Hill today. The Democrats have no one with the authority of a Sam Rayburn, the endearing qualities of an Alben Barkley, the maneuvering skill of a Lyndon Johnson.

Republicans have no Robert Taft the elder with his mastery of the legislative process. Nor have they an Arthur Vandenberg, with his late-blooming ability to command a following for great causes.

Some would argue that Congress is filled with faceless men because that is what our society produces in these postwar decades. But perhaps any age which for a time develops no heroes is charged with being unable to do so.

However it is, the fact remains that Congress does not have heroes in 1963. Whether there are any “potentials” below the topmost power rungs is not wholly clear – and is worth exploring.

In the meantime, at a stage when the nation seems to demand little or no sweeping action from its lawmakers, Congress offers “leadership” well suited to stalemate. And surely this contributes heavily to the dull, gray image it now projects.

All those kids are potential voters

President Kennedy’s family is producing a population explosion all its own.

The offspring of the First Family, plus the children of the president’s brothers and sisters, come to a present total of 20.

His wife, Jacqueline, will have another child in August, and by then there also will be newcomers in the families of his brothers, Bobby and Ted. 

The existing 20 already have something of a “community” life at Hyannis Port in summertime. Soon they may have to establish their own suburbs.

For those who have been complaining that there are too many Kennedys, the word is clear. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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