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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  November 27, 2014 10:25am-10:56am EST

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opened in 1909, the russell senate office building caucus room has witnessed many notable senate investigations. in this second of a two part program, senate historian don richie tells us of hearings held from the 1940s to present day
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including the 1954 mccarthy hearings and water gate investigation. >> people come into this room all the time now. it's used for lunches, receptions, used for lectures, meetings, award ceremonies, announcements, all sorts of things happen here. it's a grand room. it's just a wonderful setting. immediately people are impressed by the dimensions of the room, wonderful carvings and fixtures here, great chandeliers and history. there's a plaque on the wall that lists the famous events that took place in this room. i was once asked by a radio correspondent to describe this room to a radio audience that couldn't see it. i said this room always reminds me of grand opera. it's a magnificent setting. it usually has a large cast of
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characters and plot. everyone sits around waiting for the witness to sing. television came along in 1847. the first hearing was george marshal testifying before the foreign relations committee. this had to do with american foreign policy. he was secretary of state at the time. this was one of the big issues of the day. >> europe is emerges from the devastation of the most destructive war in history. within its own resources, europe cannot achieve been a reasonable time economic stability. the solution would be much easier of course if all nations of europe were cooperating, but they are not. >> the real excitement of television covering hearings didn't happen until 1950 when a freshman democratic senator from tennessee named estes keefover began an investigation of
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organized crime, mafia in the cities of the country. he started going around with the committee to cities rather than having everybody come to washington. the committee went to new orleans, st. louis, kansas city, detroit, chicago, new york and and a made tmade the circuit. when it got to new orleans, the local television station preempted howdy doudie the kid's television show. people were glued to this. it was senators and mobsters. a great combination. as keefover's committee traveled, the local tv started picking up on this. it was like a broadway with show doing tryouts and getting to the great white way across the new york networks all broadcasted they were national networks.
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it wasn't local television anymore. one of the witnesses was frank costello a mobster in new york. they came to washington and tv came into this room to cover this. housewives were holding parties inviting their friends over to watch. it was the best television to watch at this point. it turned keefover into an unlikely president candidate. he ran and didn't get the nomination. in 1956 he ran for vice president. a lot of other senators obvious obviously noted that television could turn them into presidential candidates. then in 1953, joseph mccarthy of wisconsin became the chairman of the old committee, subcommittee on investigations. mccarthy had been a senator
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since 1947. he'd gotten into the anticommunist building in 1950 when he went to west virginia to give a lincoln's day talk. he said i can't give all names but i hold in my name a list of known communists in the state department that the secretary is not doing anything about. he had a specific number. at the time mccarthy was reading from notes rather than a prepared speech. he couldn't remember exactly what he said. an associated press story came out and made huge headlines from around the country. mccarthy became the nation's number one red hunter. this is when the rosen berg case was going on. he had nothing to do with rosen berg. he was making charges against people including george marshal
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and secretary of state deen a achison and others. when he got to be chairman of the committee of investigation, the senate sort of thought he would get off that issue because there was an anticommunist committee. mccarthy felt his investigation committee had jurisdiction over everything and could do what he wanted. he was looking to hire a chief council. he had senior people who had decent reputations. people like john who later became a judge in the water gate case. he looked at robert kennedy. instead he hired roy cohen a prosecutor from new york who worked in the justice d. this was a big mistake. mccarthy needed somebody to slow him down.
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he would sometimes lose control and needed a mature force. he was a young and ruthless person. he brought out his worst. it was interesting. i've done oerl histories with people that worked here at the time. mccarthy has a villainous image in the history books. everybody that worked for him thought he was a very nice guy. he was the only senator that gave one of the staff a christmas present. he went out of his way to help people. he was always lending money to the capital police. he was a fellow well met. when he would get before the tv cameras he was dr. jeckyl
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mr. hyde. when cameras were turned off, he could walk out the door and throw his arm around the person he attacked on the floor. he was an odd person in a lot of ways. he was an inept investigator. he was not focussed to do the hard work. cohen was also not a great investigator in the long run. there are records of committee that are a total mismash of that time period. they called up hundreds of witnesses to come to talk in closed session. we recently published closed sessions. it's clear there were rehearsals. mccarthy was looking to who to bring out before the tv cameras. if a person gravelled in front of mccarthy or if a person tone walled mccarthy, they were likely to be called to the public session. if on the other hand a person said it's true in 1932 i was a
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member of the communist party, thought the economy was collapsing, but after a while i realized the party was ridiculous and got out after they signed a pact with nazi germany 1939. i've been totally anticommunist every sense, this and that. if they offered reasonable explanation of the behavior, they were less likely to be called in and out public. mccarthy wanted people either going to humble themselves in front of him or look awful by stone walling and taking the fifth amendment in investigations. we know now that because of the intercepts there were communist spies in the government in the 1940s. we also know that practically no one mccarthy paid a great amount of attention to was involved in spying. he missed the boat. the house of american activities committee had a much better track record in terms of investigating than did mccarthy.
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he floundered around. by the end of 1953 however, roy cohen started an investigation of fort mommoth, army signature core in new jersey. he convinced mccarthy they had finally found a link. julius rosen berg once work there had. he was sure there was still a spy ring at work. eventually the army let like 32 engineers be suspended because of the investigation. as the investigation was going on, it turned out mccarthy didn't have evidence on this easy people. most all of them were offered their jobs back, some refused to go back the to work. it wound up hurting our signal core, our investigation. it's one way the army was able to track what was happening in the word. that was crippled by the mccarthy investigation. in the middle of this, one of
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mccarthy's staff member, unpaid consultant david shrine got drafted. this was days of the universal draft. he was a young man. he got brought t into the army as a private. mccarthy and roy cohen clearly had a crush on david shrine. cohen tried to get shrine an army commission. he wasn't qualified for commission. he went in as a private. they went in to bombard the army with requests to david shrine to get weekends off. the committee was going to need him for things and all the rest of it. eventually the army tried to placate mccarthy. they didn't want to make him mad. they started documented all this. the army charge mccarthy was continuing the investigation to sort of blackmail them into special treatment for private shine. mccarthy responded that the army was holding private shine
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hostage to stop his investigation. you have charge and counter charge. the senate had to investigate. this is senator mccarthy's own committee. he's one of the plaintiffs essentially. he had to step down as chairman and let another senator chair and then it became the army versus mccarthy hearings. the president of the united states at this time was a republican president, dwight d. eisenhower who spent his adult life in the army. the one institution that eisenhower identified the most with was the institution mccarthy was investigating. now the entire administration came down on the other side. a lot of republicans supporting mccarthy realized they needed to support eisenhower. mccarthy's support began to erode at this point. the mccarthy televised meetings
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were hot television. it was covered gavel to gavel. abc had little daytime programming and was not losing revenue. they covered in the beginning and then went back to soap ope h operas. they would do special hearings at night. if you worked during the day, you could catch mccarthy at night. during the day, everybody was glued to this. again, i do oral histories. people say i came home from school, my mother was sitting down watching television. she was caught pup watching the hearings. mccarthy was no longer chairman of the committee. he couldn't control the committee. he had a way of making sure he was the major dome by interrupting points of order. as soon as the first witness with tried to speak, it was
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point of order. senator mccarthy would badger and attack the witnesses, raise questions about their credibility, imply they were all communist in the process. >> may i suggest -- i am getting sick of sitting at the end of the table and having whoever wants to interrupt this the middle of a sentence -- >> even roy cohen said watching television that night he realized mccarthy was coming across as a bullying humorless person, unsimilympathetic figur. the army hired a talented lawyer from boston, robert welsh who is
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the old school, just a country lawyer, type. a very cagey construed fella. he badgered mccarthy with humor through the program and really got under his skin. eventually mccarthy attacked not welsh but one of his young assistant attorneys who had been a member of the national lawyer's guild which was the justice department that was a communist front. didn't mean the people in it were communist but somehow they were using this as a front organization. therefore it implies this attorney was secretly a come communi communist. welsh worked out a deal with cohen for certain things he didn't want brought out. he said okay, we won't bring that out.
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when mccarthy couldn't control himself and brought this up, cohen tried to stop him. welsh said at long last sir, have you no sense of descecencd. >> have you no stance of decency sir at long last? have you left no sense of peace? >> i know this hurts you are mr. welsh. this is a point of personal preference. >> senator, i think it hurts you too sir. >> there's evidence welsh expected weexpect ed him to do this and wasn't as shocked as he a appeared on television. the television audience was shocked. mccarthy's personal standings eroded because of this. if you've seen the movie
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"anatomy of a murder" he's the judge. he had a theatrical side to him along the way. he really did show mccarthy for what he was. that undermined mccarthy's standing among the other senators. they began an investigation of mccarthy and his tactics. in december 1954, few months after the mccarthy hearings, the senate voted to sensor him for conduct unbecoming of a senator. all democrats except for john kennedy who was in the hospital and half the republicans, including prescott bush, father and grandfather of two presidents, wound up voting to sensor senator mccarthy. mccarthy was never able to regain his national standing after that. he went into a tailspin. he died at the age of 48 just a few years later. when roy cohen stepped down as council of that committee, the committee hired robert ken tned
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to replace him. you can tell the moment cohen leaves and kennedy takes over. the mismatch of paperwork is replaced by nice, tight depositions. looks like a serious r attorney is in charge. kennedy brought a talented staff. they began investigating the investigations that mccarthy drifted off of. including the investigation of general electric. it had a union that was a communist dominated union. general electric as a result tried to improve public relations and hired ronald reagan to be a spokeman. >> good evening. you'll see product reports that show how the things that lead to a better life if for us all at general electric. progress is our most important
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product. >> this was a change for reagan and making him less of a hollywood actor and more of a public spokesman ask public figure. kennedy then, when democrats came back and took the majority, became the chief council of the committee and launched the investigation into labor racketeering. in the late 1950s, this is the room where robert kennedy interrogated labor leaders. on the committee were john f. kennedy and barry gold war. it was the first time national television audiences got the chance to watch two kennedy brothers and goldwater. it had a big impact on their careers. >> i'm asking you. he talked to you and the other
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gentleman involved. >> that investigation went on through about 1960 when robert kennedy became the campaign manager for his brother's presidential campaign. john f. kennedy declared presidency in this room in january 1960. >> the democrat throws his hat in the presidential ring in the press conference. >> i a am today announcing candidacy for the presidency of united states. >> a lot of staff of the subcommittee investigation who during the day were investigating mccarthy at night were in the back room planning john f. kennedy's campaign. salinger, o brian and a lot of people who became major players in the administration started out on the public subcommittee of investigations. actually that was not the subcommittee, that was a special committee created out of labor
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committee and permanent subcommittee. it was a hybrid type of committee created. robert f. kennedy announced he was running for president in this room. edward kennedy had a long candidacy. the senate named in room for three kennedy brothers, all whom served in senate, john, robert, edward, all of whom had major event in their career from hearings like the jimmy huffa hearings to announcing candidacies to chairing other investigations and nominations held in here. this room is called kennedy caucus room. in 1973, the water gate hearings
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opened in here. it was a turning point for the nation, nixon administration and also for the investigations. mccarthy had given a bad name to investigations. the supreme court had to weigh many. it gave a certain stigma to investigations. there were a number of books that came out from people who were civil libertarians in the 1950s denouncing investigation in general and saying they really weren't good for the nation and congress was irresponsible. then the watergate break-in happened june 1972. while the washington post covered it for months, pretty much the rest of the press really let the watergate story drop. they didn't think it was a big issue. they followed the campaign, nixon versus george mcgovern. nixon won in 1972 despite the washington post's investigation and other stories appearing.
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by january of 1973, enough stories were coming out. hersh had become an investigative reporter for the new york sometimes. he discovered the hush money paid to the burglars to keep them from spilling the beans when they were being tried. at that point, congress realized they needed to look into it. the senate voted to hold an investigation. mike mansfield was the majority leader at the time. usually when a resolution is submitted to hold a special investigation, the person that submits the resolution becomes chairman. edward kennedy had been chair of a sub is committee judiciary that started looking into watergate. they suggested the special committee. people thought of him as a presidential candidate. mike mansfield realized they should not have anybody on this committee who could be seen as a presidential candidate.
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he prevailed on sal irvin at the end of his long career. a lawyer and judge from north carolina and not a presidential person by any means. several other senators who were respected by senators but not seen as presidential candidates. republicans picked howard baker as their ranking member on the committee. sort of a mix of members from their caucus as well. and they began an investigation closed door and then went to public hearings. again, i was in graduate school and working in the library of congress. we were just fixed on watching the hearings. pbs was broadcasting the hearings live. the other networks were doing the highlights. i lived in a group house full of
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graduate students. we watched loads of stories. i came over, took a day off from work at the library, came over and sat on the stairs waiting for hours waiting to get my turn to over there by that column in the very back of the room and watched john dean while he was maybe on the third or fourth day of his testimony. there were all the senators up there. the room was bright white because of all the tv lights that were there. it was like watching a hollywood set. these were tv personalities. it was really an electric time to be here for that hearing. >> i began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. and if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it. i also told him that it was -- >> the senate actually got ready to hold an impeachment trial, looked into it. one of the things they discovered was that they had never had tv cameras in the senate chamber and that the public would look at this as
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sort of star chamber event if they weren't allowed to watch it. and so they actually installed the first television cameras in the chamber in 1974. and they -- of course, president nixon resigned before there was a trial. but they kept the cameras there until december in which case they turned them on just once, and that was for nellson rockefeller's inauguration as vice president. and then they turned the cameras off and took them out. it was not until 1986 that the cameras went back into the senate chamber. >> so help me god. >> so help me god. >> watergate was 1973 and '74. then in the late '70s, you have senator frank church is investigating irregularities in the cia and the fbi. this is in 1975 and 1976.
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and there are some major hearings held in here for that. that leads to the creation of the senate intelligence committee because there's a charge that parts of the executive branch are operating without congressional oversight and that you need to have regular committee investigations. of course, most of what the intelligence community does is done in closed doors because it's all classified. so we don't see it as dramatically as we saw the church committee was doing at that time. after that, you know, in 1983, the hart building opens up, the third of the senate office buildings because the growth of the staff is happening at a very rapid pace. as late as the mid-1960s, there were less than 1,000 employees on the senate staff. they were paid in cash twice a month. they stood in line to get a little envelope full of cash. by the early 1970s, because of vietnam and watergate, the
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legislative branch didn't feel it could trust the executive branch as much. and before that they had been relying on executive agencies to do a lot of the legwork for them. and now they needed their own staff. they needed independent staff to evaluate what was happening. and so they increased the size of the senate and house staff considerably, and the senate staff went from about 1,000 to maybe close to 7,000. and so eventually they built the hart building which was really designed for modern senate operations. about half of the senators operate over there. and there is a large room called the central hearing room which was designed for modern television. this room was designed before there was television. and so there is no space to build in any televised lights or what was necessary. everything had to be done -- brought in temporarily for investigations here. so since then, most of the big investigations have switched over to the hart building central hearing room.
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a few of the senior senators like frank kennedy liked this room. they remember this. this is where the iran-contra hearings were held in the 1980s. even then, iran-contra was chaired by senator inuit. he liked this hearing as opposed to the central hearing room. you get some major hearings over here and also because sometimes the other room is booked and so this room is available. but this is the room where the bork nomination hearings were done, robert bork. >> i never advised the white house how to meet, how to deal with the watergate special prosecution force. >> and clarence thomas's nomination, very controversial nominations that took place. bork was voted down. thomas was narrowly approved. the hearings were very important for both of those nominations, and this room added to the
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setting. and you can almost hear the echoes. you can hear point of order, mr. chairman. you can hear the gavel of the chairman. i can remember sam irvin sitting up there. it brings back lots of memories over time. it's certainly filled with the echoes of history. up next, the herbert hoover presidential library hosts author annette dunlap as she explores the evolution of first ladies' fashion. she chronicles on the public image of the women living in the white house and what their wardrobe choices reveal about the times in which they lived. this program runs about an hour. >> well, good afternoon and welcome to the herbert hoover presidential library museum. my name's tom schwartz, and i'm the director.


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