tv Congress and Bipartisanship CSPAN October 12, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
the liberal democrat party's annual conference. >> recently, former senate leaders tom daschle of south dakota and trent lott of mississippi took heart in the conversation on bipartisanship in congress. they discussed working together during the president clinton impeachment proceedings and after the september 11 terrorist attacks. upcoming discussed midterm elections. tom daschle served as the senate leader from 1995 to 2005. trent lott was senate majority leader from 1996 to 2001. this event is courtesy of south dakota public broadcasting. >> it is great to be here tonight, back on a campus that seems both familiar and a little bit different from when i was here 30-some years ago. i think they built to buildings
around -- two buildings around the old student union and i believe the new football practice is silly, you could have fit the student body, when senator daschle was here, in that facility. i am going to get to the point. dr. lee, make sure i did not bury the lead in dr. miller. and dr. hogan, who set lot of the ground rules here early. this is a dialogue. it is not a debate. but there will be differences. we hope to get into those tonight as we go forward. a year ago tonight, the government shutdown. it seems appropriate that we gather here, in this environment , and talk about partisanship and whether or not there is such a thing. the senate recently has been described as equipment of mass dysfunction.
i think that is probably a pretty good description. the ratings of congress are so low that senator john mccain says it is basically down to members themselves and to their staff members who did the only people that are saying that they are approving of congress. , these two long ago leaders were leading in a time when we got some things done in this country. it came at a time when, above everything else, they put partisanship aside. we are going to discuss this tonight in a little bit. at one day, look above all others, where they were leaders that started to define the recent history of this country. let's take a look and then we will get on to our discussion. [applause] >> at a time like this, no words
that we should utter today, this evening, can help the hearts and souls and feelings of the victims and the families that were a part of this great tragedy that happened in this country today. , and words, thoughts of consolation go out to all of those who have suffered. but one thing that happens here, in this place, is when america suffers and when people perpetrate acts against this country, we, as a congress and a government, stand united. and we stand together. [applause]
senators and house members, democrats and republicans, will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight this evil that has been perpetrated in this nation. we will stand together to make sure that those who brought forth this evil deed will pay the price. we are not sure who this is yet. [applause] but we have our suspicions. and when that is justified and when those suspicions are justified, we will act. we will stand with the president , we will stand with this government, and we will stand, as americans, together through this time. thank you. [applause]
>> today's despicable acts were an assault on our people and on our freedom. as the representative of the people, we are here to declare that our resolve has not been weakened by these horrific and cowardly acts. congress will convene tomorrow. [applause] and we will speak with one voice to condemn these attacks, to come for the victims and their families, to commit our full support to the effort to bring those responsible to justice. democrats,cans and
house and senate, stand strongly anded behind the president will work together to ensure that the full resources of the government are brought to bear in these efforts. thoughts and our fervent prayers are with the injured and families of those who have been lost. [applause] , as wenow, as a nation have said, our thoughts and prayers are with those families and those injured and those who are the casualties of today's attack. thousandsmember those of people who were rescue workers. we ask now that we all bow our
and i saw the first plane go into the tower. we started getting reports and then, of course, a staff member came running in and said, they've hit the pentagon. we could see the smoke billowing up. i went back to my desk, picked up my red phone and said, tom, i think we need to get out of here . he was the majority leader then and had to give the order. by that time, our security detail came in. i remember it so vividly because we round up at the police station, the air force base, and a helicopter came and picked me up. i do not know exactly where we were. it came back that night after we learned a few things about what happened. that singing at the end was totally spontaneous. we did not know that was going to happen. i thought that was one of the
most -- one of the great moment in history, actually. the members of congress came back to the steps of the capital and said, we are going to be in session. we are not going to be intimidated by this horrific act. i could write a dissertation on all of the emotions and what happened that day. the most important part about that day was what happened after that, how we came together to get what was necessary done for new york, for our military, and to pursue the people who caused those events. and we did it working together. tom and i went through a lot of legislation that fall. i am very proud to talk about the fact that the senate, by the end of that year, had reached and 82 approval rating. do you know why it was that way? because they saw us working together for the good of the country, above politics and
bipartisanship. [applause] >> senator daschle, you were and he said that no pilot would do that. he knew right away. do you recall that? >> that is right. john had come into -- both of our offices were in the center of the complex. people would just drop by. john was having an interview in a little while with cnn and came by for a couple coffee. we were talking in front of my television. my god, i said, look at that. a pilot just flew into that building. he looked at that and said, that is not a pilot. it is something much more serious than that. i began a leadership meeting shortly after that and we were sitting around a table. i remember patty murray, the senator from washington, look
out my window and said, my goodness. look at all that smoke. we rushed to the window and there was smoke billing out of the pentagon. called andnt, trent said, we have got to get out of here. we were rushed to the doors. i remember senator byrd carrying all of these important documents with both arms, running. i was concerned for his safety, of course. but that is where it all started. thinkretrospect, do you that was a high or low point in your leadership? that day, the leadership that you displayed and the leadership that was shown that day, in the ,ense that it was a tragic day but do you look back on it with hope or regret? >> i look back at it, as trent said so eloquently, it was a time of incredible unity.
i remember people going to the floor, one after another, saying, i am no longer a republican or a democrat. i am an american. there was a sense of patriotism and commitment to country, a sense of resolve and unity that really was inspiring and moving and energizing. from that perspective, it was a moment of great pride as we look back. i think what i regret is that it takes a crisis of that kind to create the unity and to create that kind of environment and that political determination to work so closely together to accomplish a problem. [applause] later, than six weeks did you think that that was another terror -- terrorist attack from the same group? i think you were up on the hill
that day, too. were you scared for the country at that moment? >> i thought it was just another stop in what could have been a series of attacks. we did not know what to think. youngest staff members that you have are the ones working in the mailroom, opening those letters, which could have had anthrax in them. but we were concerned about tom and other senators and his staff, what we were going to do to deal with that. waspostmaster in the senate a classmate of mine from high school. he had to deal with all that we had to do to check the mail. it was another example of how members pulled together. i was in the russell building and you were in the other building. senators from other parties
started giving senators their extra office space. there was no incentive to do that, they just started doing that. in the cafeteria, all of the senators, republican and democrat, talked about what happened, what we're going to do about it. the atmosphere was one of great concern. it was also one of camaraderie, expression of concern for each other. it was one of those magic moments that we experienced several times when we were the leaders where we had to get on our knees and get together in the old senate chamber or the senate dining room and, as one group, make decisions that were right for the moment and for the country. they do not do that anymore. toms one of the things that there should be a more
regular opportunity to get together across party lines. >> could you go through the legislation that was passed in the two or three months after 9/11? many pieces. so one of the most controversial was the patriot act. as we look back, i would like to revise many of the things we decided to do at the time. trent said something a moment ago and i agree. we did the best we could given the circumstances and the , thestanding we had knowledge and the intelligence that we were given. , the whole issue of national security changed when we experienced 9/11. the realization that it would never be the same. the creation of the homeland security department was part of that agenda.
homeland security had been a very disparate entity through a lot of different agencies. we brought them altogether. was controversial and coupling hated. it got political at times. -- and complicated. it got political at times. but i think we did a good job. creating the framework for security in a different context. of it as moreght of an international and military complex. it was now much more local, much more personal, far more pervasive than it had been before. that was another piece of legislation we had to address. we passed some legislation to help new york city, of course. and we passed legislation to deal with problems a were having in the aviation industry after that day, too. people quit flying and they had real losses. period ofhole
legislation. tom and i went up to new york city after that event. we wereer saying, when there, they hit new york city, they hit america. we are all in this together. and we did that. we kept our word. i know you have said since you have left the senate that there was another period of crisis in the country where you felt that there was productive work done and that was the impeachment of president clinton. could you talk about that? it was 10 in -- it was tenuous that day. can you talk about what led to that moment? what's i remember the call. it was my birthday. trent called me and the house had just enacted to impeach the president. i was running an errand that afternoon and he said, now it is in our lap, now it is up to us. the one thing we have got to understand is we have got to
rise to the occasion. we have got to do everything we can to make this a deep political -- politicized experience and get through this god-awful mess we are facing. impeachment had not occurred for the president in over 100 years. we first had to learn just what happens, how do you do this? how do you manage and imprisonment -- an impeachment trial in the united states senate? who knows these things? we began a great deal of research with staff, just trying to create a mechanism or putting the pieces in place to conduct the impeachment trial. now the question is, when do we do this? the sooner we get it behind us, the better. however it turns out. we decided it was going to be the first order of business when we came back in january. piece by piece and step-by-step, it came together and we got through it in reasonably good shape. >> in that conversation with
tom, we agreed that we would get a couple of senators to take a and what wehistory needed to do and come up with some recommendations. the senator from washington state and he selected joe lieberman from connecticut. period of time, they came back with their recommendation. a short way to describe it was it was going to be an abbreviated proceeding. when i presented that to the republican conference, they did everything but stoned me and throw me out into the street. some of my best and said no, we are not going to do it that way. they were not happy with it. they had some legitimate arguments so i had to call tom and say, this is not going to work so then we were kind of flummoxed. we did not know how we would proceed and get this whole thing done. someone came up with this idea
-- we wound up meeting in the whole senate chamber, which is a hell of a place. it and called on to openckup -- danny up the session with prayer. and then i called on bob byrd to give us perspective. i did ask him to be brief -- [laughter] but he gave us a really good outline. and then we started the discussion. -- kennedy goth up, ted kennedy, and made some suggestions about how we can proceed. and then the old republican from texas got up and started talking. and i realized, they were saying about the same thing. with a nod from connie mack from
florida, we said, we have the solution. we're going to go with the brown-kennedy proposal of how to go forward. everybody was ecstatic. we came up with a solution and it was ted kennedy, the liberal democrat from massachusetts, and graham, the conservative republican from texas. i said, tom, do you know what we really agreed to? [laughter] greatt out and had a press conference announcing this great agreement and then we senators group of would sit down and render it to writing. i do not remember what the agreement was, but it broke the dam and we went forward and we got it done in a dignified way because it was our constitutional responsibility. some people said you could have removed him if he wanted to. no. most of my life, i was a went --
a whip. i counted votes in the proper way. so the question was, how could we pick up and carry this for our country? the following thursday, bill clinton called me and, without even mentioning what had happened, started talking about legislation he was interested in and we went forward. and it worked. it worked because we worked together and our colleagues realized that this was an historical moment. we can embarrass ourselves. that we made, my colleagues on my side of the aisle, they wanted witnesses. they wanted monica lewinsky to be a witness. and i said, never. thed i agree to demean senate and treat it like it was a regular court proceeding? we are going to do this with dignity in a way it has been done historically and it is not going to include that.
i think that was one of the moments where tom and i felt the bond of trust in each other. i remember still, and i have seen the picture where we stepped across the aisle from each other, shook hands, and said, we got it done. now let's go forward. [applause] >> the thing that i think most people forget is that right after the votes on impeachment, there was a bomb scare. we all had to leave the building. this was in the 1990's. nobody knew where to go. my security team had no idea of what we needed to do. so i ended up walking through the space museum for about two hours until it was safe to come back. i will never forget that. it was probably the best tour of the space museum i ever had. it was like 10 minutes after a vote on impeachment. i am thinking, what a contrast. >> that makes the point to my next question. can you explain to us what was so funny in this picture?
>> tom had told a dirty joke. [laughter] >> i thought maybe you were sharing john mccain's story. by aat picture was taken wonderful photographer who asked if he could follow me around for about a week. and we let him. trent was good enough to say, yeah, if you want to do this -- so he had enormous access. that is the only time i can recall ever doing that. but that picture was taken while we were negotiating the 50-50 senate. i do not know what was funny at the time, but i am glad we found some humor in it. that was in the year 2000. >> top was the majority -- tom was the majority leader. i guess we still had the minority because we had the vice presidents vote. the leaders now, i doubt if they ever grace each other's offices.
the whole between my office and tom's office went both ways. he came to my office and i went to his office. what a small thing to do. how ridiculous would you be that you would not go to the other leaders office? that was one of the things we did to keep an easy relationship. sitting at that desk, we laughed and we cried some, too. senator thinking daschle just told him that senator jeffords was going to switch parties. some other time, we both would have changed numbers. >> let's switch gears and talk about the institution itself both of you served in the house as well. it has been said that the senate coolse the saucer that the hot coffee. today, it just seems to be dysfunctional.
do you think it is personality? do you think it is partisanship? what do you think it is that is driving it? >> it is an array of things. it is partisanship, personality, the times. i blames have changed the airplane, in part. in the old days, when travel was not nearly as convenient as it is today, people stayed in washington for large blocks of time and then they would go back to their homes for equally big blocks -- not equal, but significant time. nowadays, people literally leave on thursdays to come home or do their fundraising and come back on tuesdays. and we try to govern on wednesdays. you just cannot do that. me, is one of the single biggest challenges we are facing. the senate is only in session this year, out of 365 days, they are only in session 109 days.
of those days, only about one third of that time is synchronized with the house. about two thirds of the time, the house is not in session. so there is no way to correlate, do the kind of coordination necessary to move meaningful legislation, to work together. not to mention the fact, and this is such a big topic that we could go on for the rest of the time, but i think i would start with that. there are many other aspects to it. >> you both have come up with some proposals, including being in session five days a week. >> some of them are just common sense. the job is in washington. do you want to stay in touch with your constituency? sure. i wanted to be in mississippi. i always kept my home in mississippi and would go there. but you are elected to go to washington on behalf of the people. we do not vote by referendum.
we vote based on being elected and learning about the issues of voting for the people. we recommended simple things like they should be in session five days a week. stay in session three solid weeks, five days. what is a work week? five days, right? why shouldn't congress do that? then you can go home in your state and do your constituency work then. the house is in two weeks and out two weeks. the senate is kind of in and out. it is supposed to be three and one, but they do not work that many hours, really. coordinated,e not like tom says. it is one of the many things that has led to what we see. we do not want to be preaching from the stands to the people on the field. look what we did.
there are a lot of reasons or it. is thethe things american people being more involved and paying attention. the solution is not just throw the bums out because a lot of the problems have not been caused by the new members of congress. the new members are -- look i am a very conservative republican. [applause] [laughter] i do. know when i became an establishment moderate -- i do not know when i became an establishment moderate. there is not much middle. the leaders have trouble keeping their teams in place. we need some leaders that will , whether it is a
president of the united states, the majority leader of the senate, the minority leader, the speaker of the house, somebody in the leadership. to say, we have to stop this for america. what we need are leaders who will lead. [laughter] -- [applause] on that point, do you think that congress is more of a reflection of the divisions in the country, or a cause of that? that i ask is that there are new statistics about the way the country is congregating. people that think and live alike and have similar lifestyles are living together more in the same communities. i wonder if you think that the congress is simply a reflection of that divided country that we have here? said it before, you
sort of get the congress that you vote for. >> i think to a certain extent -- the pew research institute came out with a report a few weeks ago that, chuck, you probably reported on, that the american people are more polarized than they have been a longtime. i think that is because of something else that we talked about, which is that we tend to migrate to those media sources that we agree with, whether it is fox news or msnbc. we have more blogs today than ever before, and a stir things up -- they asked her things up in a way that we did not have before. medically.as changed they used to beat referees and now they are participants, and that is catalytic for polarization. there is one other factor that i have to mention, and that is the money chase. a senator today in a competitive
race has to raise about $15,000 every day that they are in office. they do not do that, they wait for the last two years and then they spend about two thirds of the time dialing a four dollars. this it in cubicles smaller than this stage doing nothing but dialing, dialing all day long for the money that they need. that is no way to run a country. [applause] that is no way to run a democratic republic. > i want to go back to a point that senator lott made. you supported president obama early in his campaign. do you think he has been a good leader and exerted the kind of leadership that senator lott talked about? >> yes and no. i think every beater has failures and successes. credit forgreat passing something that i care about, health care. [applause] the?n i make a point on
-- that? that was a partisan vote. >> i wish it could have been. i was in the room when he was encouraged to take what we commonly call a single-payer approach to health care. in medicare for all approach. -- and i remember him saying this -- i am going to take the heritage foundation model that was offered in 1993. as an alternative to the single-payer approach. he was then called, let's have a public option. i've single-payer for those who want to sign up for it. he said, no, we will never get republican support if we do that. i was there at the stages were he made the decisions where he made the effort. at the bottom line is that we did not get bipartisan support,
and i think it is undermined our beginning from the beginning to move the legislation forward. tom, i think, was shocked today because one of the bright students that we met with at south dakota state university, nurses and pharmacists and others, and they asked us tough questions. asked me, basically the question was, did i think we would have passed health care reform if we had been in charge? and i shocked tom, because i said yes, because i do think the health care reform was coming and there was a lot of need for it. accessibility, affordability. but it would have been different. we would've had more amendments. it would die by the bell that passed, it would've been more broadly supported. not have been developed past, it would've been more broadly supported. as for the president, i was and heng for tom,
could've asked me if i are we george w. bush, and the answer would have been no one that. -- no on that. [laughter] should meet with the congressman, talk with republicans, talk with democrats on immigration reform. there are republicans that want to get that done. you did that every week with president bush? >> yes, after 9/11. we had to wear our jackets. >> and i showed up half dressed. [laughter] i'm a night owl. bill clinton, he was on the phone, day and night. sometimes i did not want to talk to them at 2:00 in the morning. [laughter] but he was always in touch, always pinging us to find out what we were up to.
i do not think the president obama does that. i do not think that he enjoys that type of relationship. and i think it would help him if he would do that. and also with democrats. you have to work with the team that you have got, regardless of party, and try and find a way to get agreements. everyone in washington says that .e need tax reform the president says a, republicans senate, democrats say it. publicans say it, democrats say it. we need to cut the corporate tax rate. senateng to my colleagues this year, tell the people what you are for. we know you do not like obamacare. we know you're holding your breath and holding his unpopularity will elect you. that is not good enough, what are you for? [laughter] [applause]
i am trying to stay away from partisan remarks, but if they would do that, we would win the senate. if they try to hold their breath, i do not know if that will work. we do not even have a higher education act. .nd nobody is against it and yet it languishes in committees. so there is a lot -- we will have to talk about foreign policy, defense again. these are not issues that would surprise anybody. but who was talking about the things that we need to do? in order to get things done, you have to talk about what you would do if he would get into office. -- you would get into office. that is a little away from the question, but i think that is important. >> i'm glad you raised the point about student questions, because we are trying to get to those. i do want to ask one more
question, and that is, if the republican does with the senate, it out of the leadership says that one of the first acts would be to try and repeal obamacare. typesn that preclude the of things that you are talking about on transportation and wouldn't that preclude the types of things you're talking about on transportation and energy? >> i am always looking for a way to get the result you want. i would say, ok, have one more vote on repealing it. get it through the house and senate and then obama would veto it, and then what would you do? what you should do a sit down with the president and say, there are some things in the bill that are not working the way that we thought they would or that you wanted them to. could we amend this? should take some time with a few rifle shots, hopefully that would be bipartisan. if you want to repeal the
medical device tax, which would undermine the bill in some ways, he would get 70 votes for it. it where you see places where improvements can be made and then move on. do your show will end under your real votes. then do yourand real votes. [laughter] [applause] on health care, there are so many things that we could do together. tailored medicine, a great way to deliver. one small example, but there are many others. student get to the questions, because they are probably better than any that i have asked. think, a one is, i tremendously -- i have tried to write about this. it is hard to get traction on
this because the country does not vote on this issue, and that is student debt. it has transcended $1 trillion, as you know. we are the only country in the world that saddles our students with that kind of debt. what are your thoughts on this? how have we gotten to this point and how do we get out? >> that is an extraordinarily important issue. it is one of the largest sources of debt in the country. we have ignored it for too long. we have made it hard for students to repay the debt, oftentimes. we have not created the mechanisms that i think accommodate the extra ordinary in cost the students are facing. i think we have to deal with the cost of education, and how we deal with the from a national perspective is one that is subject to thoughtful consideration.
reducing the cost of money for student loans. all of those things have to be a part of it. >> i am the son of a schoolteacher. my mother was an english teacher. serverdid my first new column, when i got elected to the house, she clipped it out and marked the grammatical errors in red and mailed it to me. [laughter] been accused of being a little flaky on the issue of education. after i graduated in 1963, i worked for two years in the placement and financial aid office. i was a recruiter and over the summer i did be loans and grant programs, set up work-study programs for students. i felt like the federal programs and the work-study program, i could not have gone through law school without that, so i have always been an advocate. in those days, it was not called the student loan, it was called ndea, national defense education
act. part of that was that if you got the loan -- it was a lower rate than now -- and you went to teaching -- into teaching, a certain portion was forgiven for every year. i like the work-study program, where you can work for the university while you are going to school and get paid for it. i also think -- and this is where i reflect my background. i also think that you have an obligation to pay it. you need to look at higher education in america. our be adequately funding research, which is an important we adequately funding research, which is an important part of our curriculum? ?hat is the right rate how can we make sure that
students do pay it back? and that is where i get a little hard nosed, frankly, i think that if you borrow it, you pay it back. the grant program, but i get nervous when it becomes, you get a loan and a grant and a supplemental grant, and next thing you know you make more money going to school then when you get out of school. so this is an important area. i think we need to take a look at it. ress made a little prog this year -- and, by the way, they came to a bipartisan agreement. the chair of the education committee is a guy from minnesota, a thoughtful guy. it should be a priority issue next year. >> as you alluded to earlier, you belong to a bipartisan group. one of the things that they came up with, that the group, through some of your work, is a year of national service between 18 and
28. which is controversial. could that be possibly twinned into the student that situation? -- debt situation? >> definitely. we had a wonderful day talking to students, and one of the messages that we took to the students is that everybody has a commitment to their country. a realization that we have to give back. there has to be some recognition of the responsibility of .itizenship of course, voting and political involvement at all levels. but i think it could also mean national service. it has been discussed on many levels, all kinds of different settings and locations. i think there is a real value to students who are brought to an understanding of the importance of citizenship, the importance
of responsibility, the importance of giving back to one's country. and in so doing, it addresses other challenges in education as well. >> we have talked a lot about the moments were you came together, but there also were moments where you were, for lack of a better term, at each other's throats in the senate. in both of your books, you wrote about those times. what was the most difficult d?tuation you face >> i don't think whoever were at each other's throats. -- we ever were at each other's throats. balanced budget amendment, and that led to a balanced budget. we got that done. discussionan easy for tom, because frankly there was a lot of back and forth between republicans and -- the president, and
there were a lot of things that tom did not like. but we got it done with an overwhelming vote. a couple of times, i surprised tom, did something that i did agreements --to two agreements. number one, i would tell them what the schedule was and i would not surprise him. every once in a while, i would pull the trigger on him, and he would get mad and i would apologize. it went both ways, he would do to me when i did to him and we worked it out. did we ever get nasty with each other? -- wehink what happened each came out issues from different perspectives. we understood that if we were going to get through this particular legislative challenge, we would have to find common ground. i think the greatest friction occurred on procedural issues that are kind of boring to the audience.
--re is a term that is commonly called a filling the tree. now.is happening it happened over 70 times in the last six years. that is the frustration that sometimes you have. you want to legislate, if you think you're are being dealt with unfairly, whether procedurally or substantive, you will respond. but trentave tiffs, said something earlier that, i look back and think how pleased we are to do it. we decided to have a phone that directly connected with the two leaders. it was only for the leaders. the staff could not use it. i knew if the phone rang, it was him. it was that line of communication that allowed us to get through difficult times. once, we would use a colleague.
-- once in a wild, we would use a colleague. we would send messages to john from louisiana. at the end of the day, i do not think we went home at. >> on filling the tree, i did it to tom 11 times. [laughter] >> that is true. i did not like any of them [laughter] . [laughter] you only did that to me once or twice. i didn't at least two times trying to block john mccain from offering campaign-finance reform -- i did it at least two times trying to block john mccain from offering campaign-finance reform. theink that, while intentions are good, it has contributed to the problems that we have now. the abilityakened of the parties to do what they have to do and led to super funds that are out there blasting people with tons of
negatively.sually and no transparency. one of the things i always said i campaign-finance reform, i do not like limits, but i think you should have to reveal instantly where you got it from and to give it to you. let the people decide then. dairymen probably some here, once i was running and i got a contribution from dairymen incorporated. i was proud of it. i got plastered by the media and my opponent that i was taking money from the dairy industry. i was proud of it, so i touted it. , we have had to put up with. >> is there such a thing as too much bipartisanship? i asked it in this context. objectionsve raised
or second thoughts about the patriot act. there are a number of democrats who regret their vote on the iraq war. was there too much by that pushed us to fast into iraq and security concerns that we are now seeing a play out? >> chuck, i do not think so. as i said, and they could've said more to the point, but i think you do the best you can given the circumstances you are dealt. ,nd we did the best we could given the circumstances that we had at the time. but i think that is true of almost anything the congress is faced in all of history. you make decisions, move on, come back. we'll get the number of times we have amended the social security we look atcare -- the number of times we have amended the social security act or medicare. this is an organic process and will evolve over time.
i look back with pride and satisfaction, but obviously there are now things that we haven't better understanding of, that i would apply if we had that chance. think there can be too much of a good thing you bipartisanship, which is what you have to have when you have two parties to get something done. but you do not have to give up your principles or your philosophy to get that done. i come from a school of thought, the way i was raised, i believe the best government is the least government, closest to the people. the people in this room, your mayors and councilmembers and commissioners, that is where the rubber meets the road. a formerelieve -- like governor in wisconsin once said, the federal government should defend the shores, deliver the mail, and steady hell out of my life. -- stay the hell out of my life.
i believe in individual responsibility and rights. i have a greater faith in people at the local level, and i am naturally suspicious of the federal government. but, having said that, i also think that there is a role for the federal government. my for the colleagues and party who basically say, no, i do not want any federal government am a that will not work, either. -- government, that will not work, either. like tom mentioned, the tax bill that bush 43 wanted in 2002, i was for much an advocate of the full cut. -- very much an advocate of the full cut. but my friend of from the louisiana tipped across the aisle, probably with tom pushing them, and so olympia snowe from me -- stole olympia snowe from me. we negotiated, we ended up
cutting it by about 300 billion dollars -- $300 billion, but it was totally huge tax cut. where i come from, if you cannot get $1 trillion, but you can get a hundred billion dollars, that is a good deal -- $800 billion, that is a good deal. [laughter] i have been accused of being a deal maker and a compromiser. accusedt i've also been of getting things done for my country, and that is the important thing. [applause] >> that is a good segue to our last six minutes. i will let you perform the senate exercise here. you can divide the time between yourselves. what i would like you to do any final three minutes or so is addressed this question, and that is, short-term and long-term, are you optimistic or
pessimistic about the country? and talk about why you think the way you think on that. senator lott. >> i would be glad to yield to my colleague. [laughter] short term, i am worried about where we are and what is happening. you alluded to this earlier, tom. what is happening in the party primaries now really upsets me. i had opponents, the first iran for congress, and the republican primary. i never had another republican primary opponent in my 35 years. but now, the primary is so vicious. my colleague from mississippi has been in congress 39 years. he is a vocal man, but he is 76. he ran for reelection and we had an ugly primary mississippi. -- in mississippi.
i do think that the elected officials are reflecting the people. i was shocked by what some of the people said and did in mississippi. we generally run gentlemanly campaigns, but this one was nasty. youngworried about the people, with the social media and the twitter and the instagram and the facebook. then i go and see some military and i come to a university like today at south dakota state university, and it reinstates my faith. i am worried short-term, but long-term, you know, this is the greatest system the minds of men have ever conceived. this, too, shall pass. i do see hope over the horizon, the next generation of leaders coming to congress. republican, democrat, house, and senate. they will be different than the current leaders, i am not
damning the current leaders, but they are reflective of the times. but i look at the men and women, young, i think it will get better. and i do believe that the american people -- i hope it will not take another crisis or more disaster. but when we get together, we are a hell of a force, and it will happen again. [applause] i guess i share that point of view. in the short-term, i am concerned about the polarization, the confrontation, the dysfunction that we began talking about tonight. but it has been worse. times have been worse. the country has been in worse shape. i read a book about william jennings bryan and the great panic, we had double-digit unemployment and people were concerned whether the country could survive. he gave a speech in denver, and he ended the speech by saying if i had any wish it would be to
come back in a century to find out whether the great country has survived. that was in 1907. we survived not one but two world wars, a great depression, a number of scandals, the resignation of a president. and we look back on the century is one of the greatest american centuries in all of history. in fact, the american century. i think we succeeded, in part because of our resiliency, in part because of our innovation, in part because we find ways to collaborate and be engaged, but in large part because, when we needed it the most, our leaders rose to the occasion and provided the kind of leadership that made a difference. and that is what we need so badly now, to rise to the occasion. to show that leadership. the company grips with the challenges we are facing. -- two, to grips with the gripssation -- to come to
with the challenges we are facing. the chairman of the rules committee had two pictures on the wall, one was a picture of an old biplane with two men standing in front of it. one of the bottom, is it to my dear friend claude pepper, orval and wilbur wright. wright it was a picture of the moonscape, and it was -- addressed to claude pepper by neil armstrong. elected by 14 got votes, i do not know how long i will be here. what advice do you have for a very junior and fragile congressman? he said, one thing. you're a democrat and i am a democrat, but it is far more important, not if you're an r or a d,if you are a c
constructive or destructive in the legislative process. right here, and i am very grateful to him for coming here to join us. thank you very much. [applause] "q&a" with robert, an author and vietnam veteran. liberal democrat annual conference. and then, another chance to see the conversation on washington politics and bipartisanship with former leaders trent lott of mississippi and tom daschle of south
>> like us on facebook.com. >> this week on "q&a," our guest is robert timberg, journalist and author of "blue eyed boy." in 1965, he was a marine 13 days away from coming home when his vehicle struck a landmine and changed his life forever. he talks about the impact of the experience, the 35 surgeries he has had, his thoughts on the