Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Nov. 18, 1959
November 18, 2009 | 2:00 pm
As Senators Write to Indignant Taxpayers
While we're all gathered here together, in this smoke-filled room, I'd like to say a few words in behalf of politicians.
They are our friends. Behind that stodgy facade that they put up, they've all got hearts as big as Daddy Warbucks'.
And what they do, they do in our best interests.
I am prepared, I might add, to give you an example.
You remember, a couple of months ago, when Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois drafted a resolution calling for a government expenditure of $200,000 to permit himself and his 99 colleagues to fly to Waikiki to welcome Hawaii into our union of states?
The resolution was drawn up shortly after Alaska, which is cold, slipped quietly into the union. And it was met, I'm told, with some resounding cheers in the upper house before it was drowned out by a chorus of taxpayer screams.
Well, now, at last, I can tell you the story behind the proposal. I have it from an indignant taxpayer who was among those who wrote their protests to Washington.
He wrote to Sen. Dirksen, Clair Engle and Thomas Kuchel.
Dirksen replied, in part:
"Nothing delighted me so much as to observe in every section of the country that a proposal to have the entire Senate attend the Hawaiian inaugural ceremonies at public expense struck so deeply into the hearts of people and offended their basic feeling with respect to governmental extravagance and the need for economy.
"I should point out that when the question was asked of me by the press, I said that I presumed every senator 'wanted' to go to Hawaii, but as you well know, 'wanting' to go and 'getting' to go is quite another matter . . .
"I reaffirm, however, my delight that there is an aroused feeling in the country with respect to spending.
"As for the record, I take some real pride in the record which the Republican minority made in the Senate in resisting huge authorizations for the expenditure of money and heavy appropriations.
"This aggressive effort on the part of the minority plus the determination of the president to hold the budget line plus the clear evidence of public interest all joined to give us a good record in this field."
I would have suspected that the junket was a Democratic plot if I hadn't seen Sen. Engle's answer, too:
"Thank you for your letter regarding the proposal of Sen. Dirksen . . .
"I agree that this suggestion is ridiculous; and if it had come to a vote, you may be sure that I would have voted against it. It is not improper to send a small delegation . . . on this great occasion; but to send the entire delegation is, of course, preposterous."
California's Republican senator, Tom Kuchel, had still another explanation:
"I fully agree with you that it would be an abuse of the public trust and a flagrant waste of public funds for either branch of the Congress to arrange a so-called junket for its entire membership . . .
"It is unfortunate that a jocular remark about a possible trip to Hawaii was misunderstood and subsequently treated seriously by a certain segment of the press . . .
"You may rest assured that I would never be a party to such an extravagance."
So now we know. Either:
1 -- Sen. Dirksen -- who's been battling those spendthrift Democrats for years -- was just testing us taxpayers to see if we were alert;
2 -- If those spendthrift Republicans had gotten it to the floor, the Democrats would have voted it down; or:
3 -- It was just a big joke.
I get the feeling that if the indignant taxpayer taxpayer had written 97 more letters to our elected representatives, all would have expressed violent opposition to such a prodigal scheme, no matter what they might have said before.
It's like I told you at the start. Politicians are our friends. Especially if we're watching them.