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July 7, 2013
Richard Baker
Co-Author, "The American Senate: An Insider's History"
Richard Baker BIO:
Richard Baker grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts. He received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, a M.A. from Michigan State University, a MS from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He was appointed the Senate’s first official historian, a post he held from 1975 until his retirement in 2009. He is married to Dr. Patricia Baker who is a clinical social worker in a private practice. They have two sons and three teen-aged grandchildren.

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Info: Our guest is United States Senate historian emeritus and author, Richard Baker. He discusses the newly released historical narrative he co-authored with the late journalist Neil MacNeil titled, “The American Senate: An Insider’s History.” The book details the emergence of the United States Senate to become what Baker terms “the most powerful upper house of any legislative body in the world.” He talks about the effects of the seventeenth amendment, which caused Senators to be elected by popular vote rather than state legislature, and whether or not it has succeeded in combating rampant corruption. He shares stories of leadership struggles and floor debates. He describes the styles and strengths of former Senate leaders such as Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-MT), Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), and the “fightingest man in the Senate,” Joseph Robinson (D-AR). He talks about the personalities of Sen. Everett Dirksen, with his persuasive and deep baritone voice, and Sen. John Pastore (D-RI) who was called the “bantam rooster” of the Senate for his aggressive personality and diminutive size. He discusses oratory on the Senate floor and whether or not it plays any real role in changing the minds and votes of Senators. Mr. Baker puts the current state of the Senate in its proper historical context and explains why he does not believe today’s Senate is the most combative in the life of the legislative body.

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