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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  May 29, 2016 6:00pm-6:41pm EDT

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>> we proudly give 72 of our delegate votes to the next .resident of the united states [cheers and applause] artifactsek american takes viewers into historic sites around the country. oldest tour some of the rooms in the u.s. capitol with moyle moyle. we hear about the historic events that have occurred in the suite, theleader's early rooms in the 19th century
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hosted the u.s. house of senate,tatives, u.s. and the library of congress. .enator mcconnell senator mcconnell takes us behind the scenes into the republican leader's conference room and his private office. and he recalls his own political career and the historic moments .n which he participated we are in the united states capitol in the senate wing and a tour by theven majority leader himself. fork you, senator mcconnell opening you have this week to us. where are we in the capitol now? senator mcconnell: we are not in the senate wing, which is further down. we are in the main happen toll. came down from philadelphia in the summer of the capitol looked quite different at that point. the two wings were added right there the civil war during 1850s. but this particular space like the capitol has its own history. that know that during general period they began to
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develop what subsequently came as the library of congress in this particular space. the been the office of republican leader of the senate, who that is, whether we are in minority, since probably the 1950's. but before that there were a functions different in this space. initial development of the library of congress has a story of its own, which i think your viewers will be interested in. host: before we go there, from f theproximity standpoint, senate wing is very close to us. senator mcconnell: it is. host: and the rotunda. give us a sense of space of where we are. senator mcconnell: the capitol this until the 1850's. and they added a howes wing senate wing. the reason was because we had won the war. thead vast new territory to pacific. and anticipated new states, new .enators, new congressmen like all government projects,
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there was a big debate about how much to spend and whether to go big or to be modest. ironiesne of the great of the american history, the wheel horse behind the first in as senate and subsequently secretary of war of the buchanan all people, was, of jefferson davis who argued for going big that we were going to building because we wanted to have a big, important country. thei think that's one of great ironies of american history that later jefferson left and course, became president of the confederacy. host: before we go in the suite, it's been named after a predecessor, howard baker. when did that happen? senator mcconnell: well, before i got here. when howard baker left in 1984, very popular with both sides of the aisle, both republicans and the democrats. and that was sort of a parting gesture to an outstanding republican leader. host: let's walk in. , i've beenlking in doing this for a long time.
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though you're one of, dare to say, a declining number of senators who really the about the history of senate. i'm thinking about senator byrd before you who spent so much time. that your interest in history is not as shared among as in the old days? senator mcconnell: i don't really know but i know there are who read a lot of american history. i've always been interested in it. thesis, i did my senior in college on henry clay and the compromise compromise of 1850. i have a depiction of that, which i'll show you, subsequently. so i've always had an interest in it. and once i moved into this office and became republican theer, we got interested in history of this space and produced a pamphlet that sort of outlines the various things that have occurred here over the years. int: what did it look like 1800? senator mcconnell: well, you smallererything was then. there's a plaque in the hall
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that points out that in 1800 this would have been shortly after they got here the house of met inntatives actually this space and conducted the 36 ballot election that determined that thomas jefferson would be occurred in this space. host: right here. senator mcconnell: right in this space. course, that was historically of enormous because bird was a scoundrel. actually did a lot to influence jefferson's selection. he couldn't stand him. but he knew bird was a scoundrel and the country need to be saved from him. that occurred in here. and then they developed the library of congress in here, too. host: but it would have been this.ifferent than was it this -- senator mcconnell: i think the walls must have been configured differently. the house, subsequently, for many years, until the expansion in 1850, plated in statuary --
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operated in statuary hall acoustics were terrible. they couldn't hear each other, literally could not hear each other. were quitetes stressful because people could not -- the acoustics were just awful. that was one of the factors, in addition to winning the mexican led to the expansion decision to build a house wing wing.senate host: this room has got a number of things i want to talk about to stay with the history of it. 1800 was important but also 1814 important. senator mcconnell: it sure was. host: what happened? senator mcconnell: they developed the library of congress here. british invaded washington, they burned both the capitol and the white house. didn't burn to the ground because it was made out of marble but it gutted the building. it took them four or knife years -- five years to get back into the capitol. used the initial library of , which the books -- to start the fire.
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supposedly happened in this area. it destroyed the initial library, of course. and gutted the capitol. and when people ask about jefferson's books being the start of the library of true but that's happened after and gutted the the initial library was destroyed in the fire. then either gave or, i suspect, sold because he was his booksit debt, which are still on display at the library of congress building as the beginning of the library congress. host: one of the most architecturally significant today? of this room architectural ly significant? host: the fireplace? senator mcconnell: well, it has which some of which actually still work but we don't use them anymore because of like henry clay here on the wall. contemporary portrait of clay. is not good for old
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portraits. thrilled. have been he and jackson were, i would their basically -- rivalry began the modern two-party system. on absolutely everything. clay took jackson on directly time in 1832. jackson won overwhelmingly. and debated. and that was the beginning of the wiig party under clay which the republican party. and, of course, jackson was a prominent democrat. think clay would have enjoyed the fact that since my predecessor is from tennessee, this office into and replaced him, i took jackson down, sent him back to the put henry clay up. so clay finally bested jackson something. host: the other portraits are from -- senator mcconnell: republican presidents. host: you selected which ones?
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senator mcconnell: i have bush 41, teddy roosevelt, bush 43, reagan course, ronald who is from my party and for us the modern hero. host: why did you choose the portrait, teddy roosevelt? senator mcconnell: well, roosevelt was the most person of whoever held the presidency. the only president who wrote ofks and made money off writing books and who was a big game hunter, fearless. threatened -- i eastern, he took enormous chances throughout his life both as a young man hisg out west after losing wife and his mother on the same and hunting, you know, battling the terrain and weather and all the rest. down to after his final run for presidency in 1912, which he that hea three-way race precipitated by taking on his colleague,nd and
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william howard taft. he literally took off and went america and went down the amazon in an extremely dangerous trek down the amazon. picked up a lot of exotic and wn diseases, which probably led to passed the age of 60. he had all kinds of health problems after he got back from down the amazon. interestingur most president ever and happened to be a republican, so i thought that was appropriate to be in office.blican leader's host: how do you use this room today? senator mcconnell: well, this is where guests come in. they start here. i come out and have pictures taken with them. then we go into the conference room. .e have meetings those are not only -- usually people from home but also, you senators are in here all the time, in and out. because my job as the majority
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,eader is to set the schedule to decide what we are going to debate. it doesn't always guarantee the outcome because the senate is a really unusual body. requires 60 votes to do most things and only rarely does one party have 60. have to talk to each other. you can't do much in the senate basis.rictly partisan so this is a beehive of activity only ofhe week not constituents, people who have particular interests, but senate.es in the host: before we leave this space, grand as it is, i want to understand its progression and usage because it was house of representatives and library of congress. and then what happened after that? senator mcconnell: lots of different things. used, i think, for periods of time by vice , by others. i have a pamphlet here that i uses.outlines the various but for our purposes, i think,
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the 1950's it's been the office of the republican leader of the senate whether we are the minority.r the we don't all switch offices like they do in the howes -- house. former speakers in the house nearly the office that the speaker does. but here it's been con continuously since the time of robert taft in the 1950's, the office of the republican leader. away is ther democratic leader? senator mcconnell: not very far. he's off the floor of the samee, too, about the distance. actually, he might be slightly a i. feet closer than of course, we deal with each other every day in opening the thete and discussing business of the senate and how to go forward. host: we're going to keep on suite.through your i'll let you lead the way here. senator mcconnell: ok. man anden i was a young began to have hopes that maybe i
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a political career, my role model was a man named cooper, who was a republican senator from kentucky. democratic, pretty so it was a little bit unusual to have a successful republican. him.identified with i was an intern in his office in the summer of 1964. actively involved in breaking the fill juster -- rightster on the civil bill of 1964. happily enough, 20 years after that i won the seat that he had alive.d he was still and this is a picture of when i be sworn in -- orientation. he asked me to stay at his house, which was a great honor. so i had gone from intern to senator. i didn't obviously defeat him. he retired. in the meantime, i defeel thed theguy who re-- defeated guy who replaced him after he retired.
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but it was a thrill to literally cooper,enator go from intern to his replacement. host: another influence on your life? senator mcconnell: yeah. whomis a great uncle with i share a name who, interestingly enough, was a local politician in alabama. of course, there were no republicans at all. he was like the county executive. they called them probate judges. alabama.l do in this is a piece of his stationary. that's where i was born in north alabama. we lived briefly in georgia and kentucky when i was 13. this is one of his old cards which shows you how politics has changed. looks like he's running in 1934. "to served it says you well, to make each transaction a stepping stone confidence perfect is my desire and constant endeavor." that probably wouldn't work today. host: a paid political announcement.
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wasn't it? senator mcconnell: it was. was one of his campaign cards. obviously it was not a cut and of campaign. host: and we're moving into the next suite. this?s senator mcconnell: this is the as irence room that, indicated, this space has been by the republican leader roughly since the time of who was only majority leader briefly. he was a real power house in the senate. of for president a couple times. competed against eisenhower. when eisenhower won, he wanted and i think his colleagues wanted him to become the majority lead are, which he did. regretfully he died about eight later, so he was only in here briefly. one of our best known and most leaders, howard baker of tennessee, who retired the year .hat i got here
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in fact, just passed away the years.uple of when i was an intern here, dirksen was the leader of the republican minority and a major theer with l.b.j. in making civil rights bill in 1964 and of 1965ng rights bill bipartisan. host: he also used television quite effectively during his time. senator mcconnell: he was not particularly tote genic but he actor.reat witt. a natural could have made his living being an actor in plays on broadway. entertaining. he sort of kept the republicans kennedyter the assassination and the goldwater debacle we were down to a number again, which has happened a couple of times in the last 100 years. course, everyone who becameob dole
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the leader when i got here and .as our candidate for president and when bob stepped down to run president in 1996 he was seceded by trent lott of .ississippi host: do you still stay in touch with your predecessors, talk to them? senator mcconnell: sure. was talking to dole recently. i talked to lott frequently. and bill is back on this wall. he was the one who put andrew outside, thus leading story about clay and jackson. host: how do you use this room? having mcconnell: we're he had meetings in here all the time. the republican leadership are in here. if we have a particular issue we're trying to advance, i bring leaders of both sides ways toy in to discuss go forward. it's a beehive of activity.
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are also constituent meetings in here, too. mostly members. willing to share a story? it doesn't have to be contemporary or give away memory in this room? senator mcconnell: oh my goodness. that.ave to think about there have been so many. one moment you would be interested in. bush wanted to order the surge in iraq toward tenure, theis democrats had just come to the and they believed the unpopularity of the iraq war was hadprinciple reason they come to the majority. so there was a lot of resistance to providing the funds for the see if we could finally get the iraq war right. but ijust elected leader was leader of the minority so i had to try to sell to a new majority who felt they had just
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come to power because of the war alarity of the strategy that seemed to be doubling down on failure. i couldest salesman find was general david petraeus. and we had petraeus in here. brought in members after members after members after theers and let him make argument about why he thought it would work. salesman.ood we got the funding. the surge did work. not, the iraqt or war was won by the time office.t bush left so the sales job, in effect, was done largely in this room by petraeus, who was going to be the person to execute the thetegy if he could get funds for the troops. host: one of those if the walls sort of rooms. isn't it? senator mcconnell: yes. host: next is your own personal office. correct? senator mcconnell: yes. host: how long are your days?
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senator mcconnell: i usually have something to do in the .vening we're either in session or i have some event i need to attend for my colleagues. so i usually get home around 8:30 or 9:00. when do start? senator mcconnell: sort of normal time like most people, 8:30 or 9:00. regularly 12-hour days. will how much of that time is spent in here? senator mcconnell: most of my in here. like all senators, i have another office in the russell building. we have three senate offices but i have, as a result of being leader, i have two offices and two sets of staff. deals with all of the senators. russell is mainly oriented toward kentucky and my .esponsibilities there but just to keep myself from running back and forth all the generally operate out of
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here. the people from the russell have constituents or concerns, they usually come over here. you'll be interested in what i have on the wall. this is lincoln and his son, ted. host: this is an original? senator mcconnell: i think so. in the 19th century, so many of disease.d lincoln's son, willie, died while he was president. it to age 19 and died of some disease. only lincoln's son robert had a life. a distinctln is such figure for republicans, and actually in many ways for democrats as well, i thought it to have him up there. host: and people forget that he has kentucky roots because illinois laid such climb him. senator mcconnell: we all claim him. wasas born in indiana -- he born in kentucky. lived briefly in indiana.
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and ended up in illinois. have lincoln's birthplace. we make -- everybody wants to lincoln. host: also been to mary lincoln's house in lexington. too.e has kentucky roots, senator mcconnell: she was from lexington. link yoon roots in kentucky -- lincoln roots in kentucky were real. famousbably remember his quote that he wanted to have god on his side but he had to have .entucky what that meant was he spent an enormous amount of time prying to prevent kentucky from seceding from the union because he thought it was extremely the wart in terms of strategy to avoid kentucky's secession. the saying, i want to have to on my side but i have have kentucky. speaking of kentucky, this is marshall harland. every first-year law student can tell you who he was. he was from kentucky. fought for the union.
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some the war he had political aspirations. but kentucky, curiously enough, theed to sort of go over to southern side after the war and became a totally democratic state. harlan didn't get very far with his political aspirations. partner, a law partner, , who is a veryw well-known. and the two of them were known citizens wholid were incorruptible. lynnis partner benj bristow became -- benjamin bristow became secretary of tesh trie in the grant administration. and the reason was he was sort allr. clean and grant had kinds of corruption problems. he brought in bristow to try to clean the place up. bristow also, interestingly enough, was the nation's first general. so bristow after about a year look at the situation and decided he needed to get out.
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he was afraid his reputation smeared. why am i telling you about harlan's partner? point. a years ofafter eight grant, the republicans, harlan thought, needed to do something different. and so mr. clean, he thought, would be the perfect nominee for president. so the republican convention was in cincinnati. in those days you weren't supposed to act like you wanted didn't go tow cincinnati, harlan did to try to get bristow the presidential nomination. when it didn't happen, harlan switched the bristow delegates to rutherford b. hayes which is how he got on the supreme court served for 30 years. and the reason i have john marshall harlan up here, he was the center of the case plessee which upheld
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segregation and public accommodations. it was rail cars. became thet in 1896 unanimous decision segregation in brown v. 1954.of education in so every freshman law student who has had constitutional law who john marshall harlan is i probably told you more than you wanted to know. up on the ended supreme court, it was a reward for helping hayes get the nomination. a depiction of the surrounding the compromise of 1850. up, noton i have it only henry clay, daniel webster, c. calhoun -- i have it up because i'm an admirer of clay but i did my senior theis in college of compromise. host: was it because he was a kentuckian that you did that? senator mcconnell: yeah. i recently reread it.
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it wasn't very good. madely, they should have me rewrite it so i'm not exactly sending it around for publication. three sortone of the of major compromises that clay in, widelyd attributed to holding the union together as long as it held before the inevitable conflict blew things up. gave him the nickname "the great compromiser." correct? senator mcconnell: yeah. was known as. host: what does that message mean for you for the senate today? senator mcconnell: because you compromise. and we do a lot of that. unfortunately in today's world agree on never make any news. it's only when we have differences. goes off the track or something's controversial that it seems to be important enough to be noticed, which is a great frustration. to people like me because we've in this congress, under the majority, an extremely productive period with all kinds
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things that are important, like trade promotion authority, cybersecurity, multi-year highway bills, a complete elementary and secondary education legislation, major energy bill. onother words, on and on and almost none of which make any news because people are not interested in times when we get and accomplish things. they tend to only be interested in our differences. host: do you find yourself muttering to that portrait from time to time? senator mcconnell: occasionally, yeah. here,ave a democrat in alvin barkley, on the left. the only other kentuckian who his party iner of the senate. he had a long tenure, from 1937 1949. there were so many democrats in .he senate when he was elected the vote was, i think, 37-36. that shows you how many in a senateere were that had only 96 members because hawaii and alaska were not yet states. he won by one vote. but he was a roosevelt guy.
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a very interesting man. finally became vice president under truman and went into the first timer in a very long time. host: after that was over. senator mcconnell: yeah. it.ated didn't like private life. so he decided to run against my cooper, in senator 1954. .nd defeats cooper but cooper has a pretty fast comeback after being sent to ambassador to india by president eisenhower. barkley accepts an invitation to convention.on you'll enjoy this. he's down there on april 30, studentsaking to the who are having a mock convention barkley spoke of his willingness to sit with other freshmen senators in congress. with an illusion to tolm84:10 saying i'm glad sit on the back row for i would
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rather be a servant in the house than to sit in the seats of the mighty. he then collapsed and died of a heart attack. and president truman put out a statement saying, boy, i'd like to go that way. politician in front of a big audience, a cheering crowd, bam. memorable line. senator mcconnell: yeah. a great exit. a great exit. barkley up.y i have host: as you're work at your desk, you have one d. and one r. appearing over your shoulder. senator mcconnell: i do. it's a good lesson every day. over another bust of clay here. senator mcconnell: yeah. you can never have too much of mow. clay, if you're -- me. i also have a bust of clay in here. host: and you have some documents and books. what have you chosen to display of those? senator mcconnell: well, these are just very old books. i will confess, i have not read .hem but very, very old books. that two cases, you know,
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simply are the right kind of vision i think for an office that's steeped in history. the james madison-framed document behind you? host: somebody gave me that. a big james madison fan. i just finished reading lynne terrific biography of madison. very active in first amendment-type issues. the author ofwas the constitution and a supporter of the bill of rights, i just found -- fond of james madison. this officeng up, was a spectacular view of the mall. senator mcconnell: two things window.is bob dole, when he was in this office, called this the second washington. he wanted the first best view, which he said was down at the white house. tried.e senator mcconnell: didn't quite work out. but outside this window there the capitol. of and my first internship in
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ashington, in 1963, was in congressman's office. i had the good fortune to be here on august 28, 1963, when martin luther king the "i have a dream" speech. i confess, i couldn't hear a thisbecause i was down at end of the mall. he was on the lincoln memorial looking out at throngs, literally thousands and thousands of people. but you knew you were in the presence of something really significant. i went home that night and tv.ed on the if had any doubts, they were dispelled about the significance of that day. it was a thrill to think back upon that all of these years progress thatthe we've made in race relations in country. king, i think, would never have imagined that we would have an african-american president, for example. great progress. host: and then you went on to be cooper.n for senator senator mcconnell: the next
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summer came back on the senate side with senator cooper who was actively involved in break a filibuster against the civil rights bill in 1964. the mail room, not exactly making policy in those days. had another story the next year that you would be interested in. i came back to visit the friends made the previous two summers. the next summer, the summer of 1965. and once again i happened to hit it on the right day. sitting in the outer office in senator cooper's, you the reception area of senator cooper's office hoping to get a chance to see him. walks out, grabs me by the arm and says [clearing throat] you tong to take something really important. rotunda and to the there i am in the back of the watching lyndon baines johnson sign the voting rights of 1965.
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i had a better seat than i did for the martin luther king speech. anecdote you might be interested in. rotunda.i was in the we were celebrating the 100th ofiversary of the birth l.b.j. and i met lucy johnson before.ad never met on the "lucy, i was here signed the votingd rights act." she said, "i was, too." i said, "really? i'm sure nobody knew i was here i'm positive everybody knew you were here." and here's what she told me. that her dad said come on, get in the car, i'm going to the capitol. this is something important. and on the way down he explained dirksen was going to be right beside him while he signed the bill. "daddy, why would you want to have a republican there for this?"
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he said, "it's important that people understand that this is done on a thertisan basis and american people will be much more likely to accept what we're doing if they think both sides it."nvolved in and that was the story lucy told me on l.b.j.'s 100th birthday down at statuary hall. host: you've talked about your on the house and senate side. when did this whole interest in politics start for you? senator mcconnell: probably high school. i ran for president of the student body in high school. if i had lost, maybe i would else.one something host: was it -- was there a followingwere you ?olitics in your family senator mcconnell: in my fifth grade picture, the little mug shots every year, i had an "i like ike" button on.? senator mcconnell: in my host: there weren't too many republicans -- you were in at that point? senator mcconnell: i was in georgia at that point. you were right, there weren't many republicans. in world war ii, way down as a foot soldier
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level, under eisenhower. to vote fored eisenhower. obviously eisenhower didn't states but myhern admirer of the commander. so i sort of began to identify with republicans a little bit. and four years later we were in kentucky. even though it admirer of was ac occasionallyicans won. my dad was a republican. so i began to identify with the republicans and decided to take a shot at it. i ran for president of the in law body in college, school, too. clean sweep. here, was the got leadership position something you always aspired to? dream job?ur senator mcconnell: unlike a lot of people, i really didn't think be president of the united states. i think there are plenty of senators who do think that. i was not one of them. maybe one day i could be leader of my party in the senate. and it really was a dream come true. host: what does this office allow you to do? what's its real power?
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senator mcconnell: i think to pull people together. schedule, to try to push the country in the direction you think it ought to go. joy.a great and it's an interesting leadership challenge, as you can imagine. a club like the senate? intelligent people with s.arp elbows and big ego they have their own hopes and aspirations not only for the country.t for trying to synthesize all of that semblance of music is like conducting the orchestra. somebody's always a little bit off-key. host: maybe tying history into this conversation as we close here. when you look at the kind of politics that happened in this chamber during the civil war year, 1850 leading up to the war, really tough times with really important stakes. people say today this is the most partisan environment that we've ever experienced what tell about that? senator mcconnell: that it's not
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anywhere near true. that thea shame american people think that things are more contentious now .han they used to be we haven't had a single incident where a congressman came over death ad to beat to senator on the floor of the senate, which happened in the .850's what's different today is that more americans are exposed to the arguments through the internet, through cable .elevision but the debates we have today compared to, for example, what adams and .efferson called each other in those days they were fighting duels. we had big, vigorous, robust debates throughout the history of the country. what's different today is more .eople in those are exposed to it. and, i think the coverage of tilted do is entirely towards the things we disagree contentiousness of some of our debates, not the
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get.mes that we which is disappointing. host: leader mcconnell, thank of youruch for the tour office and for the history lessons you've given us. .enator mcconnell: thank you anyou can watch this or other artifacts programs any c-span.org/history. >> in addition to the graduating god'ss all over this planet, i wish you be graduating peace, love. case.at's not the we don't live in a fairy tale. guess 1% does. >> this memorial day watch commencement speeches in their entirety offering advice and encouragement to the graduating case of 2016 from business leaders like michael powell at pepperdine university, founder of oracle, larry ellison, university of southern
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contreras, and maria sweet, at whittier college. >> you can count on yourself. what makes you special? you frominguishes others? in business we call it your proposition. key.ing out yours is >> senator sessions at the university of alabama in huntsville, senator boxer at the of california berkeley, and governor pence at university.eyan >> be strong and be courageous. stand for who you are and what you believe. you've changed here and will carry into the balance of your life. officials,e house vice president joe biden at the university of notre dame, lynchey general loretta at the spelman college, and president barack obama at university. president obama: is it any
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optimistic?i am throughout our history a new generations of americans has arc of up and bent the history in the direction of more freedom, more opportunity, and more justice. the class of 2016, it is your turn now. nation's destiny as well as your own. so get to work! thismmencement speeches memorial day, noon eastern on c-span. >> coming up next, albany law professor emeritus paul finkelman delivering a keynote address. mr. finkelman compares the roles of congress, states, and the president in developing immigration policy from the colonial period to modern day. part of a two-day societyitol historical symposium. it's about an hour and 15 minutes.

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