THE SENATE by Howard Liss


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Whenever Lass departs from incidentals like seating arrangements (""Joseph Montoya sits in the third semicircle from the rostrum. . ."") and the great bean soup rivalry, he immediately plunges out of his depth. Prefacing his discussion of the Senate's special powers, he says, ""Patrick Henry was afraid that the president might turn out to be a king under a different name. If Henry could have traveled through time to talk to Presidents Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson and Richard Nixon, he would have learned that he had nothing to worry about."" But the three incidents which follow -- Johnson's impeachment (by radical leaders who ""admitted in private that what they were after in the South was a solid black vote for the Republican Party""), the refusal to ratify the Versailles Treaty, and the rejection of Haynsworth and Carswell -- do not sufficiently establish the effectiveness of the Senate. In any case, Liss completely disregards the revisionist view of the Radical Republicans which most historians now hold and is no more at home with contemporary affairs, naively asserting that ""It's hard to imagine today that it was ever necessary to introduce bills in Congress. . . to hold meat packers responsible for the food they put in cans."" Much space is devoted to thumbnail sketches of famous members -- LaFollette, Taft, both McCarthys, the Kennedys and Joseph Montoya (who is presented as a typical poor-boy-made-good Senator and receives disproportionate attention throughout), but weighty and controversial issues such as organizational reform, local vs. national interest, and relations between the legislative and executive branches are hardly broached.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
Publisher: Lion