Senator Everett Dirksen – Meet The Press – November 7, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Senator Everett Dirksen appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press a few days after the mid-term elections. While we’re still on the subject of mid-terms and looking at mid-terms past, the 1954 mid-term elections held not much in the way of surprises, and kept up with the otherwise typical outcome where the party in the White House is different than the party holding the majority in the House and/or Senate.
The extra added bonus to this particular “odd” year was the fact that the Senate was getting ready to hold meetings over the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy who, for a time, was riding high on the crest of the Red Scare wave gripping the U.S. – the Red in this case was Communists, whom McCarthy was devoting his political career ferreting out from all branches of government those individuals whom McCarthy was convinced were in the process of subverting American Democracy. In Shakespearean terms it epitomized “sound and fury, signifying nothing”, but managed to damage if not destroy careers by the sheer act of axe grinding and innuendo – took up an enormous amount of time (not to mention the hundreds of hours of radio and Television time broadcasting the hearings live) and cost the American taxpayers a staggering amount of money just to, what – alarm people?
After a while, the public grew tired, the media grew tired and the President had enough. In a stinging rebuke of his fellow Republican, President Eisenhower questioned McCarthy’s motives and methodology in his attempt at making “America safe” and it triggered a motion to Censure Senator McCarthy and put his shenanigans to rest.
Because Senator Dirksen was a seasoned politician and thoroughly adept at changing color with the seasons, Dirksen masterfully evaded, deflected and claimed surprise when asked about the McCarthy fiasco and the Mid-Term debacle, which Dirksen blithely retorted “it was a Republican victory”, despite numbers to the contrary. Even down to the Censure issue and the upcoming hearings, Dirksen refused to take sides, even speculations over the motion and the outcome and where he stood on the matter.
Senator Everett Dirksen was a master at his craft – he embodied the spirit of politics; that arcane ability to perform somersaults, leap tall incongruities and walk on water all for the purpose of staying in office and gathering votes. He was a force to behold, all the way through the 1960s.
But in 1954 he was busy ducking and dodging, and this rather contentious batch of reporters was throwing hard and fast. Sadly, we don’t have this brand of politics (or press for that matter) anymore. It was fun to watch.
Here is Senator Everett Dirksen’s appearance on Meet The Press, as it was aired on November 7, 1954.
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